Monday, February 12, 2007

How Faulkner Looks Today

An aquaintance was dismissive about Faulkner. Seems he'd sat down to reread The Sound and the Fury and had found it dramatic and obvious. "For kids," he said. It's true that I couldn't see slowly trolling through four or five of the novels like I did when I discovered him as a teenager. But it occurs to me that a reader today would simply look through what at the time was most significant about Faulkner. Internal monologues, polymorphus grammar, shifting points of view; if I'm talking about Modernism in early 20th century literature, in my class it's James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, the James brothers, and William Faulkner is next. Not too far down the list. But my friend has probably read hundreds of novels written since then that simply take these narrative mechanisms for granted, and thus he focussed on the crazy Gothic people living in the ruins of the once classy world now torched, which subject matter in Faulkner is rich but to taste. The truly influential writer erases himself.

1 comment:

John said...

Quasi-readers remember Hemingway best of all from that period - they would, since he condensed language (my College prof called Faulkners' "a life sentence"), but really more for his illustrious life and bearded Papa poster image. But you're dealing with actual readers here. I read The Wild Palms last summer; without having read any fiction written since the storm I'm sure it's one of the best novels about Katrina anyway. Faulkner liked nothing better than to write well and to keep at it - he would have had no problem with your piece's fine closing sentence.