Oh My Word…
I’ve been changed! If you’re a fan of William Faulkner, you know why.
I’ve just completed Light in August and when I say storytelling that makes you want to shake, weep, yell, laugh, and throw away anything you’ve ever scribbled, I don’t say it lightly. Who would have thought such command of the English language would be so sophisticated yet so raw at the same time. I mean polished truth that forces you to smell and taste the relentless ignorance it wishes to give shape and form.
Faulkner tells the story of numerous characters in Jefferson, Mississippi during the Jim Crow era. Lena Grove, Joe Christmas, Gail Hightower, Byron Bunch, Joanna Burden and the good-for-nothing Joe Brown (aka Lucas Burch) who accidentally brings them all together. The novel introduces us first to Lena, wandering the south looking for the father of her unborn child, a man she knows as Lucas Burch, who left abruptly under the pretense that he’d send for her. Burch establishes a life for himself in Jefferson, Mississippi, where he takes up the new identity as Joe Brown and rooms with Joe Christmas, a vagabond himself since his days as an orphaned youth. Christmas, unsure of his genetic makeup travels a lonely street running away from his past and without solicitude for his future.
The story centers around a burning house, the scene of the murder of the town’s most controversial resident, Joanna Burden, who’s lived alone for the most part in obscurity except for the blacks that pass through or visit with her from time to time. Being the sole abolitionist in this town, and from a family of Yankees, she’s never seen in town (less she was looking for a fight). Joe Christmas takes up residency in the cabin on her premises, and the two develop a relationship which leads to both of their ruin.
The story unearths ideas on race, religion, love, responsibility, war, what one knows, what one believes, what one remembers, and so much more. There is not a wasted line, not a superfluous sentence. It’s so full and complex, and though a challenged to follow at times, completely worth the effort of reading and rereading. Faulkner’s style is at once an incessant expression of the highest literary skill and still as simple as the light that shines from a fire.
If you have not, it goes without saying, read this book! It’s a great American novel deserving of all the praise it receives. William Faulkner did that!
Have you read Light in August?
Let me know your thoughts on the book or William Faulkner as an author for that matter.
Next up, I’m reading The Known World by Edward P. Jones! Feel free to read along with me (or if you’ve already read it), and I look forward to discussing next week!