Saturday, September 01, 2007

Revisiting William Faulkner

Book Cover: Absalom, Absalom!

Continuing my Gothic adventures, I've enjoyed reading William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! and The Sound and the Fury. My introduction to Faulkner was "A Rose For Emily" in a literature anthology which my mom, a high school teacher, brought home from school. Ten or eleven years old, I read it through as fast as I could, eager to find out what happened. I was horrified, nauseated, aghast as the townspeople forced open that upstairs bridal suite. That "long strand of iron grey hair" gave me nightmares for months. It was one of the finest literary experiences of my life.

Apprehension marked my subsequent reading of Faulkner, as if, on any random page, a decomposing Yankee might grin vacantly in wait. I read some more short stories, and, about 12 years ago, As I Lay Dying, but I always braced myself for a nasty shock.

Somewhere along the line, I lost that apprehension. Miss Rosa, of Absalom, Absalom! suffers more than Miss Emily, and her family's dreadful end is more horrifying than a poisoned triflin' Yankee. (And after all, didn't he ask for it?) The stories move me, but they don't freeze me in my tracks. Now, I focus on the characters who shake their heads, draw their conclusions, and clean up tragedy's aftermath. Patient, forbearing Dilsey of The Sound and the Fury seems the most interesting character, and I wonder where Miss Emily's elderly servant went, and what he thought all those years.

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