Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Unvanquished

I have misplaced my copy of "The Unvanquished." I may just have to go down to the used book store down the street an buy another copy. I was half way through the book, set it down for a while, and then got caught up in other things. After all, Faulkner is not the easiest read in the world.

As usual, it was very difficult for me to figure out what was going on in the story, not because it isn't well written, but because it is Faulkner. I sort of had a sense of what was going on, but needed the cliffnotes to be sure.

It turns out I was right about my hunch. The grandmother has some sort of scam she was pulling on the Union soldiers where she was selling them mules and stealing them back an selling them back to them all over again. I got the sense that she was only getting away with it because the captain had a soft spot in his heart for this spitfire granny.

Part of what makes Faulkner so hard to understand is, he's not trying to make sure you understand. I get the impression he could care less. He's telling a story, and if you're smart enough to figure out what's going on, you get to listen in. He almost makes you feel more like an eavesdropper than a reader, like if you're not careful, he might reach right out of the book and swat you away for being so nosy, if you bother him with questions.

Another thing that makes Faulkner challenging for me is the preposterousness of the situation. It really does make you want to do a double take to read what Granny is doing to those Unions soldiers. Is she for real? How is she getting away with that?

Yet another reason it is difficult to understand is, Granny seems to be doing this on the sly, trying to hide it from everyone in the story, reader included, and if she makes her plans too loudly everyone might find out!

Ringo is my favorite character. I don't mean to give the story away if you plan to read it, maybe don't read the rest of this blog, but one of the most memorable lines of dialogue is from Ringo. Granny is killed, and I didn't realize how attached to her he was. He was the same age as her white grandson, and every bit as much part of the family. After Granny is murdered, Ringo, the grandson, and Snopes, the man who originally seemed to get Granny involved with the scam she'd been running, all go on a quest to find the killer or killers and avenge her death. At one point, the grandson is trying to figure out how many notches are on the stick he is using to keep track of how many days they'd been gone. He forgets how many days it's been. He asks Ringo to help. How many notches are on his stick.

"I only got two notches. One for the day Granny was killed, and one for the day we find that son of a bitch that killed her."

I really didn't know how he felt about her till then. What a great writer Faulkner is, to keep that affection that Ringo had for Granny withheld till the moment he says that, while whittling on that stick.