Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (1 of 89), Read 101 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Sunday, October 21, 2001 03:49 AM I promised Beej at 4AM to start a thread for this next Faulkner -- she is further into it than I but the plan is to read and discuss it here on the heels of As I Lay Dying and whatever other Faulkner has recently grabbed her and other CRs' attention. I have here the Hasselt Bib copy of the Modern Penguin Classics (UK) with the following on the back cover: 'A landmark in American fiction, Light in August explores society in the Souther United States through its central character, Joe Christmas, who kills his perverted but God-fearing lover and is pursued by a lynch-hungry populace. Burns throughout with a fierce indignation against cruelty, stupidity, and prejudice...a great book' -- Spectator The front cover is noted as showing a detail from 'E Pluribus Unum" by James Kearns, in the National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington (and that I assume to be DC although it does not state it here) Only a few pages in before bed last night but already -- I am struck by the stoicism of the characters -- though I'm not sure that's what I mean exactly -- and by the flow of words -- the long and the short of the sentences and the words themselves. When I thought about that language bath at one point I immediately went back to what I'd said about the other book I am currently reading -- Ulysses - James Joyce and found myself marveling at the similar feeling both authors had evoked for me. I have read LIA before -- more than once -- but the last time was so long ago that I am thoroughly enjoying a new book -- for the moment at least. There's an anecdote in there actually -- I intentionally sought out LIA for this reading with Beej so one library book which I know I've read previously. Quickly picked up a Coetzee and a Godwin and checked out -- read the Godwin Friday and at the very end found some passages which lead me to think I've read it long ago -- further investigation will be done -- and the Coetzee -- well, I'd not only read it, it's on the shelves upstairs. So those two books go back today and I continue with my reread of one of my own favorite Faulkners along with Beej and other CR folk! Dottie
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (2 of 89), Read 96 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Sunday, October 21, 2001 09:01 AM Thanks for starting this, Dottie.. Actually, it was 4am her time and 10pm mine..at 4am my time I was sound asleep, counting sugar plum fairies in the nether world! My plans to spend the afternoon with this book yesterday were thwarted by children, so I am only 100 pages into it, but I have already come away with two BIG observations concerning Lena... 1.) love is not only blind, its can be stupidly blind. 2.) the pill is a gift from God to protect us from observation #1. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (3 of 89), Read 95 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Sunday, October 21, 2001 02:38 PM Oh, my. What a book. This book is much more serious and psychological than 'As I Lay Dying', in my opinion. Joe Christmas frightens me. This is a dangerous man. Cold hearted and scarred from childhood experiences, I sure wouldn't want him as a enemy. He reminds me of the sort of dark character one would find in a Hitchcock movie. (Is the janitor who worked in the orphanage his father?) Wow. What a book! Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (4 of 89), Read 86 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, October 21, 2001 02:59 PM Don't you think, however, that it's a more conventional book than AILD? I mean in terms of plot, psychological interaction, narrative, etc. AILD is unique. Ruth "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Albert Einstein
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (5 of 89), Read 88 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Sunday, October 21, 2001 03:11 PM I loved AILD. It was just delightful. But this one has much more psychological meat to sink my teeth in, I think, and I LOVE that. These are two very, very different books. I keep comparing Lena to Joe Christmas..both orphaned as children, yet Lena is sweet and trusting and Joe is dark and ominous. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (6 of 89), Read 85 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, October 21, 2001 04:18 PM Absolutely. Much more psychological meat. And I like it a lot. Still, that ride I took in AILD is like no other. And for that reason I chalk it higher in the list. Ruth "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Albert Einstein
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (7 of 89), Read 86 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Sunday, October 21, 2001 09:15 PM Joe Christmas' early life reminds me of a Charles Dickens' novel. In fact, his relationship with his adoptive father, McEachern, is so similar to David Copperfield's relationship with Mr. Murdstone, that I wonder if perhaps Faulkner 'borrowed' it from Dickens. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (8 of 89), Read 70 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2001 11:59 AM That's an interesting point about the parallels with David Copperfield, Beej. The end product is quite different though, isn't it? Instead of the sweety-sweet mature David Copperfield, we have what appears to be evil incarnate. In thinking about Joe Christmas, I have never satisfied myself about the import of the fact that he was born on Christmas Day. His initials are J.C. At the climax of the novel he is 33 years old. Is he the Anti-Christ or is something more subtle going on here? I will restrain myself until everyone has finished. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (9 of 89), Read 67 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2001 10:00 PM I'll be darned! I didn't catch that tie to Christ at all! Wow! I'm approaching the half way mark (today was a 'run-all-day' day..just wasn't able to sit and read much at all) but now your post makes me wonder if Joe Christmas is crucified at the end of the book! Is Joe a sociopath? And how was Faulkner able to SOOO completely take us into the mind of a sociopath without being one himself, or knowing one well? Is the character of Joe Christmas based on a real person? I don't think I've ever met such a complex character as Christmas in a novel before. This has to be one of the most compelling novels I've ever read. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (10 of 89), Read 67 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2001 10:26 PM Its almost impossible to figure Christmas out. I just can't seem to 'categorize' him in my mind for some reason. His two main issues seem to be 1.) his racial background and 2.) his reaction to women. (This guy has some really screwed up feelings toward women!) Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (11 of 89), Read 66 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 07:36 AM One more thought while we're talking of some symbolism. I keep thinking about the symbolism of windows. Both Lena and Joe climb out a window as they venture into new parts of their lives. Is this symbolic for a rebirth? When Joe first enters Miss Burden's house after 15 years of a vagabond's life, he enters through a window, and I wonder if this is symbolic of a desire to enter an 'emotional womb', a shelter, a place of replenishment. Also, in As I Lay Dying, there is a scene where Jewel becomes frustrated and starts beating his horse. In this novel, Joe becomes frustrated and starts beating his horse. Does this recurring theme occur in other Faulkner novels? Could this have symbolic meaning, too? Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (12 of 89), Read 61 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 09:25 AM I'm about 2/3 of the way through. I caught the Christ references and wondered if JC isn't a kind of sacrificial lamb. Though his behavior is sociopathic, I wonder if Faulkner isn't trying to demonstrate the sacrifice of Joe's soul to the racism and generalized rage embedded in the hearts of those surrounding him. As a reader, I abhor his actions while lamenting his lost soul. JC lives a life of acceptance from his earliest days in the orphanage. At no time does he actively engage with life through believing or being proactive. He fights any impulse to connect or engage in life. I get the feeling Joe is a lost soul, who never learns to take solace in his fellow man. I think the yearning is there, but the skills to do so are non-existent. Though he has the potential of living a loving kind of life, like Christ, he does not have the environment that would nourish that kind of life. My reaction to Joe is a kind of aching horror. What chance did he ever have? Unlike Copperfield, there was no one at any point in his life, to teach him how to connect to mankind. I think Faulkner did a fine job of writing a monster with compassion. K
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (13 of 89), Read 60 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 09:34 AM I'm fascinated with the constant references to light, dark, and shadows throughout the novel. So many times, Joe sees the light coming from the homes of the white people and the shadows in the streets of the blacks. He's terrified while walking the black neighborhoods, probably because he knows how they are hated by the whites and doesn't want to be associated with the blacks for that reason. Yet he suspects he doesn't belong with the whites, either. His anguish is palpable, and he uses his affairs with black women as a kind of self punishment and his affairs with whites as a kind of debasement of the white women. Joe doesn't know whom to identify with, so he expresses that uncertainty in his relationships. How awful to not be comfortable in either society. K
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (14 of 89), Read 62 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 11:26 AM There has been some yack around that Joe Christmas is some symbol of the South and its problems at the time. I can't believe that Faulkner set about creating Joe Christmas with something like this in mind. Certainly though, he gave a great deal of thought to the problems of the South and the race thing. Joe Christmas is complicated. I assume that he did have a black father because he believes that. Whether he actually did or not makes little difference if that's what he believed. As Kay says, there can be no doubt about his complete alienation from the society around him. Actually, that goes in spades for all the main characters. They are all outsiders. Gail Hightower is an extremely important character and an outcast in the community. Lena Grove, the Madonna character, is an outsider. Joanna Burden is an outsider. Note that we have another Faulkner novel here that focuses on journeys as did As I Lay Dying. Beej, to say that Joe Christmas's attitude toward women is screwed up is an understatement, and it is a fascinating thing to consider and discuss. However, that must wait until you read about his relationship with Joanna. We have not even scratched the surface of this novel yet. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (15 of 89), Read 60 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 11:51 AM While I'm at it, I did want to mention a scene early in the book that affected me greatly. Y'all have undoubtedly already read it. It is that scene where Joe is hiding in the closet eating toothpaste, the only sweet thing he can get. He witnesses those two having illicit sex. He's caught and thinks he's going to be beaten. He gets a dollar instead. I do not think this guy's a sociopath according to the dictionary definition. Rather, he is purely and simply a product of his own experience. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (16 of 89), Read 56 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 12:27 PM You people are making me want to pick up this book and read it again! And my TBR pile is so high. Life is full of dilemmas. Ruth "I don't have a favorite song. I only have the song I'm singing today" Berenice Reagon
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (17 of 89), Read 60 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 01:17 PM My God, you can almost touch Joe's pain. Kay, a feeling of 'aching horror' is such a great description of the feelings evoked for Christmas. Steve, was that business with witnessing the dietitian's elicit love affair, and her reactions because of that, the beginning of Joe's tremendous terror (I don't know what else to call it) of women? I am at the part where Joanna Burden has told Christmas she wants him to go to a 'negro' law school and he is horrified that it might become common knowledge he is half black. Is all his hatred, all his suffering and anguish a result of this black/white heritage? I don't really think Joe is a sociopath. I just don't know how to categorize him. Then again, I don't think Joe knew how to categorize himself, and this might be what was the biggest problem of all for him. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (18 of 89), Read 64 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 01:20 PM I do know we are only beginning to scratch the surface here. But there's just so much going on, I'm really struggling to grasp all the psychological meanings and 'underpinnings'! I don't know if its even possible to get the full meaning of everything with only one reading! (Which is a good reason, Ruth, for you to re-read it.. so you can HELP ME!) Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (19 of 89), Read 56 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 01:51 PM While I'm at it...when Joanna told Joe that she wanted him to attend a negro college, Joe beat the crap out of her. Do you think Mr. McEachern's repeated violence toward Joe, especially when Joe could not memorize his Bible lessons as a child, may have 'conditioned' Joe into believing that violence was a natural response to another's inability to understand him? Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (20 of 89), Read 58 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 03:03 PM This is far too simple an explanation, but I will throw it out anyway. Joe Christmas is half black and half white in a society that makes very clear distinctions about the roles of blacks and whites. So obviously, he belongs to neither group. Part of what is going on is that one side of Joe rebels against the other side. Example. Joe takes up with the white prostitute and lets her in on the fact that he is half black. When she is not repulsed by this knowledge, he knocks her around. It's as if the white side of him is outraged that she is not loathe to have sex with him after she knows that. This mixed race status makes it difficult for him to accept anything from anybody. That's only part of what's going on, but it is a part, I think. This all gets very bizarre with Joanna. He lives in the little cabin, like a slave cabin, on her property. After the window, he comes in through the back. She leaves food out for him. She whispers "negro" in his ear when they're having sex. Whew! Very weird relationship there! Gives me the heebie-jeebies. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (21 of 89), Read 62 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 03:12 PM And wasn't that quite the reaction with the little black girl in the silo when Joe was a teenager..did he kick her because he looked at her and saw his own 'black blood' or did he kick her because she having sex with white boys? I think, possibly, this was when his inner turmoil with his racial heritage began to really meld somehow with his sexual feelings. He had to leave the orphanage when he was little because the dietitian told the Mistress of the orphanage that he was part black. He had to go to a negro orphanage..Somehow, I think this is all tied up with his bizarre feelings toward women. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (22 of 89), Read 57 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 05:03 PM The only loving females Joe knew as a child were the Alices that tended to him. Yet they would disappear without a trace, and Joe learned early on to not trust any feelings of security when it comes to women. I think that's one reason why he spurns Mrs. McEachern's offers of help. He understands McEachern's rules, but not Mrs. E's. attempt to become an ally. He and Mr. McEachern had a very strange understanding. After Joe's refusal to learn the catechism, Faulkner writes, "There was a very kinship of stubborness like a transmitted resemblance in their backs." Later, he further describes their relationship: "He seemed to recognize McEachern without a surprise, as if the whole situation were perfectly logical and reasonable and inescapable. Perhaps he was thinking then how he and the man could always count upon one another, depend upon one another; that it was the woman alone who was unpredictable." Chapter 7 As to Joe's murder of Mrs. Burden, it is important to see the parallel with the catechism punishment. The first thing McEachern does after the child awakens is to force him into prayer. It's possible that some of the helpless rage Joe felt as as eight year old carried onto Mrs. Burden when she insisted on knelt prayer. Faulkner spends a lot of time on the indentations from the knees in both scenes. Also, Joe was outraged and terrified to be classified as a Negro. He knew how blacks were treated. He was equally horrified at being part white. So, he felt he could not belong to either. And Mrs. Burden wants him to pray about it?! K
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (23 of 89), Read 67 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 05:21 PM Maybe I misunderstood this murder of Joanna. I thought she had said they would both be better off dead, and that it was, or so Joanna thought, by mutual agreement that they die that night, a suicide pact. She had a pre-civil war loaded pistol and she had actually pulled the the trigger but it didn't fire. I do have my doubts however, that Joe planned on dying too...unless he thought he was going to slit his own throat. I do think Joanna thought they would both die..there were two balls in the pistol. AS for Mrs. McEachern, I think it just absolutely enraged Joe to feel any tenderness toward a female. I think he felt threatened by that, so when she began to treat him with love, he greatly resented the intrusion on his feelings. Kay, are you saying you think Joe had fears of abandonment when it came to women? I hadn't thought of that in regards to Mrs. McEachern, but I think you're right! Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (24 of 89), Read 73 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, October 24, 2001 05:24 PM I think Joanna's intrusion on his feelings infuriated him, too. Last time that happened, with the waitress Bobbie, he was not only beaten by the men in Bobbie's life, but also abandoned because of his mixed heritage. Steve, about this whispering the word "Negro" into Joe's ear during love making..Wasn't there something said about how her father was raised to believe in two things...the Bible and the Negro? I wonder if religion and the black man had become intertwined in Joanna's mind. When she would think of making love with Joe, and then think of God's law, she would say "Not yet, God. Not yet." She wasn't ready to surrender Joe for God. But, maybe, she considered the mantra of 'negro, negro' a sort of spiritual and emotional 'purification'. But the idea of sleeping with a negro was probably a HUGE turn on for her, too. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (25 of 89), Read 58 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 06:34 AM I'd forgotten about the pistol, Beej. I'll have to re-read that section. I'm going to try to finish LIA today. K
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (26 of 89), Read 56 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 07:59 AM Kay, there's sooo much in this novel that I really believe its impossible to take it all in with one reading. I totally missed the abandonment issue you pointed out, not to mention all the common threads between Christmas and Christ. I should finish this today, too...tomorrow at the latest. Would you be interested in reading Absalom, Absalom! with me next? Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (27 of 89), Read 57 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 09:40 AM I think you both are doing extremely well with this difficult novel. Exactly what happened when Joanna is killed is difficult to decipher. I do think she herself had in mind a suicide pact. It's possible that Joe acted in self-defense. I need to reread that, too. Your analysis of this Christmas/Burden affair is great, Beej. On the one hand Joanna equated Negro with salvation. On the other there is no doubt that she was transformed into a nymphomaniac in her forties after a virginal past and wallowed in that. Her whole idea that Joe should become saved, acknowledge that he was black, and then join her work was her solution for this dilemma, I think. I found what I had been looking for. These thoughts of Gail Hightower contemplating Protestant music: Pleasure, ecstasy, they cannot seem to bear; their escape from it is in violence, in drinking and fighting and praying; catastrophe too, the violence identical and apparently inescapable. And so why should not their religion drive them to crucifixion of themselves and one another? This novel is certainly not one praising the Protestant religion. The people in this novel who think--Gail, Joe, Joanna--cannot seem to simply accept life. Rather, they are slaves of abstract, absolute concepts. Race and religion. Those two ideas are all intertwined and certainly don't serve them well. The one who doesn't think and simply accepts and enjoys life is Lena. Earth mama. We don't see her doing a helluva lot of praying. The birth of her child is the only place where I see any light in this August. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (28 of 89), Read 58 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 10:47 AM It means a lot to know I'm somewhat on the right thought path with this novel. Thanks. I hadn't considered this murder as an act of self defense, mainly because he had the knife with him in the first place. But now I wonder if he knew this was the chosen time for the suicides to occur. I'm going to re-read this section, too. I think they had agreed that the next meeting would be the time for this, but cannot remember if she had left him a note to come to the house that night. If so, and he had no intention of committing suicide, why did he bother to go? I'm beginning to think that this was his perfect opportunity to commit a cold blooded murder and justify it in his heart with the notion that it was 'what she wanted'...(sort of like Anse and that trip with Addie's body.) Beej, Earth Mama
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (29 of 89), Read 51 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 11:02 AM But wait a minute, Beej! Don't take my word as the gospel. I'm not the arbiter of the meaning of this novel. Your ideas are as good as mine. It seems to me that Lena just wades into life without any real thought traversing her little brain. She seems oblivious to her own disgrace as an unwed mother for example. There's not a religiously or racially bigoted bone in her body. It is so interesting to have a heroine who is such a dumb bunny. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (30 of 89), Read 50 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 11:20 AM Joe's attitude toward women. Wouldn't it be fair to say that if Joe is the victim of anything, he is the victim of his Grandfather Hines and his foster parent McEachern's religious fundamentalism? Those two convinced him that he was among the damned from the outset. He came to embrace that damnation. But here's where I get fuzzy. He is damned because of his racial mix, and somehow in his mind this racial mix has everything to do with sex. . . . Come to think of it, I guess it does. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (31 of 89), Read 54 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 11:33 AM That's exactly what I'm trying to figure out..how race/religion/sex all became so blended for him..Actually, sex and religion have always been blended, so its the race thing that's puzzling, at least to me, but when you really think of the women in his youth and childhood it clears it up just a bit...the dietitian...witnessing her affair, having to leave the orphanage due to his race as a result..the little black girl in the silo...he was repulsed by whatever she signified in his mind..again, race and sex...Bobbie, his lover, she abandoned him because of his race. I think its interesting that of all these women, Joanna seemed to have the same blend of race/sex/religion in her psyche as did Christmas. No wonder she was such a threat to him! Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (32 of 89), Read 53 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 11:37 AM Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Not just sex. FEMALE sexuality. That's what he thinks has damned him in religious terms. (I had an epiphany there. Forgive me.) In Joe's mind if he is already damned, he can do sex as much as he wants. It's the sexuality of his partners that bothers him, the source of his doom. Joe should have been gay. And isn't it interesting that his grandparents try to convince Hightower to claim a homosexual relationship with him to give him an alibi? Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (33 of 89), Read 51 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 11:40 AM Oh my gosh, you're right! Its female sexuality! he's fine with his own sexuality,..he had no problem visiting prostitutes (except with the one who wasn't put off that he was black). But every time he became involved in a sexual relationship with a woman, somehow his race came to play in it and it snapped back to slap him in the face. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (34 of 89), Read 49 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 11:46 AM And, following this chain of thought, wouldn't it stand to reason, that if this melding of religion/sex/race caused him so much anguish and became so abhorrent a part of him, that recognizing this same blend in Joanna would make him abhor her also? Even to the point of wanting her dead? This might have been a symbolic killing of the part of himself that caused him the most anguish. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (35 of 89), Read 50 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 11:49 AM He should have been gay, or Faulkner should have tried to fix him up with some cute cow! Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (36 of 89), Read 50 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 11:48 AM "Bitchery and abomination," in old Hines' words. (Had that underlined.) Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (37 of 89), Read 53 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 11:50 AM Absolutely, Beej. That's why he slit her throat so violently that her head was barely left attached to her body. And then he tried to burn her. From his point of view, she turned out to have the absolutely worst combination of traits: 1. She was religiously dogmatic; 2. She loved rather than detested blacks; 3. She got into the sex thing belatedly but big time with him. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (38 of 89), Read 48 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 11:54 AM I had forgotten the ferocity with which he slashed her throat. My God, what hatred. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (39 of 89), Read 51 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 11:58 AM There. We're damned near ready to co-chair a graduate seminar on Light in August. We'll be talking about gritty stuff, not some hifalutin literary theory. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (40 of 89), Read 45 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 12:03 PM So, this worst combination of traits he recognized in Joanna, was the very same combination of traits, within himself, that was destroying him. How symbolic was it that he just about severed her head rather than stabbing her in, lets say, her heart? Do you see any special meaning in that? Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (41 of 89), Read 43 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 12:08 PM In his biography of Faulkner, Joseph Blottner claims that Faulkner had heard a story in his youth about a black man who very violently slit the throat of a white woman, essentially mutilating her in this fashion, and was lynched. The theory is that the violence and mutilation of this is what bubbled around in Faulkner's brain and inspired this whole novel later. And by the way in the early drafts of the novel, there was no Lena story. Faulkner added that as a finishing touch. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (42 of 89), Read 43 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 12:11 PM Oops! You itemized your worst trait list! And Joe's worst traits differ, yet each is tremendously tied to Joe's psyche in its own way. So darned much to explore..and we haven't barely touched on Hightower yet! Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (43 of 89), Read 43 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 12:14 PM That's really interesting to me to hear that Lena's story was belatedly added, because I recognized early on in this reading why a character just as Lena was very, very necessary. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (44 of 89), Read 44 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 12:18 PM The novel would be too bleak, too black, too hopeless without her. Good ole earth mamma. The real salvation of the species. Don't think too much, don't be too hard on yourself, get on with life, and make babies. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (45 of 89), Read 48 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 12:26 PM I think she also, because her childhood circumstances were so similar to Joe's, served the purpose of telling the reader not to be too hasty in blaming Joe's problems on his early life experiences. She also showed, by contrast, just how much this racial business played in his life. But I do believe she lightened this story..can you imagine how dismal this would be to read without her character? i think of her as the flip side of the coin from Joe. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (46 of 89), Read 46 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 12:36 PM Perfect observation, Beej. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (47 of 89), Read 49 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 12:41 PM Wow, just when I've been thinking that book discussion around here has been kind of in the doldrums I get up this morning and find 40 notes in the CR section alone, including this great string here. Keep going! Er, but just one thing folks....sex and race. Of course they're linked in Joe's mind. Anyone know of a way to mix races other than sex? Ruth "I don't have a favorite song. I only have the song I'm singing today" Berenice Reagon
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (48 of 89), Read 41 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 01:23 PM oh, man, Ruth! That just brings up another thought I have rolling around in my noggin! Joanna was PREGNANT! She was pregnant when Joe killed her! (There are so many circles within circles within circles in this book, it can just about make you dizzy!) Joe might have somewhat confused Joanna with his own mother when she was pregnant with Joe. I don't think he was altruistic enough to want to destroy this baby in order to prevent it from going thru the same horrible experiences because it was of a mixed race, I think he might have been expressing RAGE toward his mother for first, having sex with a Negro, and second, creating a life that would suffer immeasurably because of that. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (49 of 89), Read 47 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 01:52 PM Was she pregnant? Or did she confuse menopause with pregnancy? (Could one confuse menopause with pregnancy? This is not in my area.) And perhaps one could make the argument after all that Joe was an avatar of the three-pronged problem with the society that Faulkner lived in as Faulkner saw it--religious fundamentalism; an absolutist and unrealistic view of race; and a profound confusion about and misunderstanding of female sexuality apparently resulting from the first two. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (50 of 89), Read 46 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 01:55 PM I've heard it happens, Steve. Ruth, not speaking from experience "I don't have a favorite song. I only have the song I'm singing today" Berenice Reagon
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (51 of 89), Read 45 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 02:00 PM I guess it makes little difference for the discussion if she thought she was and Joe did, too. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (52 of 89), Read 48 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 02:09 PM There have been many, many change of life pregnancies, so it sure is possible to confuse the two, especially back then when the only certainty came with time. I don't think either Joe or Joanna were certain themselves. But, it was a huge concern for Joe. Much to think about with your last paragraph, Steve. Especially when we see the outcome of how not only Joe, but also society dealt with this. (I liked that 'three pronged problem' description, Steve. It reminds me of Satan's pitchfork and falls right back into the anti-Christ idea!) Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (53 of 89), Read 49 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 02:13 PM I haven't even finished the novel! I probably should spend less time on here and go finish the danged thing! I'm really anxious to find out more about Hightower.. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (54 of 89), Read 48 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 02:36 PM Gail Hightower is critical. Get outa here, and get busy. See you later. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (55 of 89), Read 46 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Thursday, October 25, 2001 04:42 PM Well -- just to clarify -- Joe didn't know that it was the appointed time for the suicide idea -- HE HAD NOT READ THAT NOTE -- it kept saying -- he didn't read it -- he didn't read it -- so what was in that note? We don't know -- but Joanna is sitting in bed with both barrels of that old gun loaded and ready -- bang she shoots Joe and bang she shoots herself -- only it didn't quite happen that way. I have only skimmed here but I am 2/3 through and have discovered an entirely NEW book -- yes, I did say I've read this at least twice previously. The last time was so long ago I don't even KNOW when it was. As I said -- I have read an entirely NEW book this time -- and am loving it! Dottie
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (56 of 89), Read 43 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, October 26, 2001 08:21 AM Dottie, I thought the note he refused to open was one she sent previous to this suicide pact. I believe there was one final note on his cot and this one he did read. On the night of the murder, he had not been to the cabin since early morning and had no idea if there was another note waiting for him there. He didn't know if she was waiting for him..waiting to die...that night. But there is something that bothers me.. Joanna had asked Christmas to light the lamp. When he did this, he laid the razor on the night stand. It was then that she pulled the pistol from under the blanket. I don't understand why, if she intended to kill him, she hesitated long enough for him to pick up the razor. There has to be a reason that Faulkner tells us: 'his hands laid the razor on the table.' Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (57 of 89), Read 42 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, October 26, 2001 10:14 AM I think I can answer my own question from the above post..she DID try to shoot him and the pistol misfired! This is really beginning to sound like a self defense case, to me. Which makes me wonder...would a black man in this period of time, who kills a white woman in self defense, be exonerated, or still held accountable for the death? Maybe Christmas really was crucified for the sins of others. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (58 of 89), Read 48 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, October 26, 2001 10:59 AM Would a black man in this period of time, who kills a white woman in self defense, be exonerated, or still held accountable for the death? Beej, pal, there are many questions concerning the novel that require a lot of thought. This question is not one of them. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (59 of 89), Read 47 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, October 26, 2001 11:39 AM Yeah, It was a pretty dumb question, wasn't it? But how difficult to admit ugly truths..or as Faulkner put it, right here within this novel: it is a happy faculty of the mind to slough that which conscience refuses to assimilate. What a travesty. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (60 of 89), Read 58 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, October 26, 2001 01:58 PM Beej, you make me giggle. Don't you think we need to rephrase your last comments? Why don't we say how sad it is that Joe's ethnicity made any difference whatsoever? That way we avoid the appearance of making a judgment as to the relative merits of black versus Hispanic ancestry. Otherwise, I fear that our views expressed here could be misinterpreted. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (61 of 89), Read 65 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, October 26, 2001 02:02 PM Well, I'm always happy to make you laugh, but maybe I should clarify what I meant. I simply meant I don't think that he would have suffered so deeply had he been thought part Mexican. Or am I wrong in believing that prejudice of that time was less severe toward the Hispanic? Thanks for pointing out to me that what I wrote could be misconstrued. I meant what I said only in relevance to how that would have affected this character in this book in that era. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (62 of 89), Read 59 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, October 26, 2001 02:15 PM Okay then. I see. In that case and keeping in mind your italics, yes, it's a damned shame he wasn't Mexican. But then we don't have a novel, do we? I mean, there is no indication here that Joanna gave a hoot one way or the other about Mexicans. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (63 of 89), Read 59 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, October 26, 2001 02:18 PM On second thought, let's just move on to something else. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (64 of 89), Read 56 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, October 26, 2001 02:36 PM oh, damnit..I'll just delete that post to prevent any misunderstanding. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (65 of 89), Read 50 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, October 26, 2001 02:38 PM Don't delete it, Beej. You're making a point. Just amend it a tad. Ruth "I don't have a favorite song. I only have the song I'm singing today" Berenice Reagon
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (66 of 89), Read 43 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, October 26, 2001 03:14 PM Beej, you have a horrible time discerning when I'm kidding you. Relax. Just remember this rule of thumb. I am never serious. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (67 of 89), Read 48 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, October 26, 2001 03:26 PM And while we're floundering a bit, I wanted to throw out something else. Last time I read anything about it, Alice Walker was persisting in her refusal to teach any Faulkner in her literature classes, insisting that he is a racist author. Now, as Felix can tell us, when Faulkner was off holding court at the University of Virginia in his later days, he certainly did make some troubling public statements about race and the South. Perhaps these unfortunate utterances are what upset Alice Walker. As for the works themselves, I don't see how anyone could read those that deal directly with race as anything but a depiction of the tragedy of slavery and its progeny. This one certainly does not glorify the likes of Percy Grimm, for example. Moreover, in terms of character, nobility, and humanity, Faulkner's black characters compare very favorably to his white ones--setting aside Joe Christmas, who is a very special case. In short, I guess I would like to read more or hear more from Alice Walker on this subject. I am not understanding something. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (68 of 89), Read 51 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, October 26, 2001 03:18 PM Too late, Ruth....but I really was trying to make a point. I just didn't express myself very well. Actually, and in a way to move on, this presumption of Christmas' Black heritage caused him nothing but a life of misery. And who presumed it? His so called God fearing grandfather. What a piece of work HE was. He caused three generations of hell for those in his family, mostly in the name of religion. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (69 of 89), Read 49 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, October 26, 2001 03:28 PM Steve, kidding or not, you had a valid point. The way I had phrased that could have been misconstrued. But, I think the point Faulkner makes by including this discrepancy about Joe's heritage should be thrashed out and examined. In a way, I think he might be saying truth might not mean a hill of beans compared to impressions and beliefs, and how those alone can have dire affects on peoples' lives. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (70 of 89), Read 53 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, October 26, 2001 03:42 PM Man, would I love to know what Walker considers troublesome racial utterances. As for being a racist author..if anything, this book speaks volumes concerning the atrocities of racism. At least to me as a newcomer to Faulkner, it does. I hope Felix comes in here and tells what all Faulkner said in this regard. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (71 of 89), Read 61 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, October 26, 2001 04:24 PM Sara Sauers, isn't there something about this in the last part of Blottner's autobiography? Is there an index in that thing? Beej, as I recall, these were some pretty specific statements about his views of the inferiority of the black race not too long before his death. I do know that earlier on Faulkner advocated that the movement toward black civil rights in the South ought to be undertaken slowly and cautiously. He had a great fear of the violence that he felt would certainly erupt. Of course this was in the late fifties before the Civil Rights Movement, as we came to know it, Martin Luther King, and all that. Frankly, at that time I don't think it was an entirely unreasonable position to take. Of course this same "go slow" attitude was completely unsatisfactory to the Movement later in the early sixties. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (72 of 89), Read 65 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, October 26, 2001 07:49 PM I'm really sorry to know he expressed those views about the inferiority of any specific race. It makes me sad. It just goes to show genius is no guarantee against ignorance. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (73 of 89), Read 56 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, October 26, 2001 08:34 PM I think we have to recognize that even genuises (genie?) are products of their time and place. Nor are they without faults. Ruth "I don't have a favorite song. I only have the song I'm singing today" Berenice Reagon
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (74 of 89), Read 51 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, October 26, 2001 09:53 PM I've been reading some of Walker's comments concerning Faulkner and he apparently did have some offensive beliefs about the African American. This is what she said about teaching Faulkner to her students: 'Unlike Tolstoy, Faulkner was not prepared to struggle to change the structure of the society he was born in. One might concede that in his fiction he did seek to examine the reasons for its decay, but unfortunately, as I have reamed while trying to teach Faulkner to black students, it is not possible, from so short a range, to separate the man from his works.' So, I gather by this, its not the novels she most objects to as much as the author's personal beliefs. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (75 of 89), Read 37 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Sara Sauers stsauers@att.net Date: Saturday, October 27, 2001 12:04 PM In response to Steve's inquiry about Blotner (Faulkner's biographer), no, I don't see any reference to Walker's "issues." It's a huge book, however, and I only took a quick look. There are some interesting comments about LIA, and I will try to find time to post some of them later -- or to hand the book off to Steve. Sara
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (76 of 89), Read 37 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Saturday, October 27, 2001 09:10 PM I would love hear what Blotner has to say about Faulkner and especially Light In August. (I presume this is the same Blotner..[how many Faulkner fans by the name of Blotner can there be?]...who was Faulkner's good friend while he lived here in Virginia.) Hightower confuses the hell out of me. (in fact, that entire section at the end of the book confused me...I need to reread it.) Is it that he lived in the past? Lived in the shadow of his grandfather's supposed glory, to the point of sacrificing his own life? How sad that when he finally re-entered the present, and provided Christmas with an alibi, it did no good. Christmas didn't die because he killed Joanna..he died because he had sex with a white woman...right? Isn't that really why Grimm killed him? Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (77 of 89), Read 46 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Saturday, October 27, 2001 09:15 PM (A chick book....Hahahaha!) Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (78 of 89), Read 40 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Sunday, October 28, 2001 09:21 AM I might be going off the deep end, but I keep toying with the idea that this entire novel is one of symbolism. But, as a believer that all fiction really exists only in the mind of the individual reader anyway, I'm going to 'play' with this idea. I wonder if Joe is symbolic of mankind, of humanism, the bi-racial issue really symbolic of thinking and living in terms of black and white, and the difficulty we go through dealing with all the 'gray' areas that most of us really live in...if Percy Grimm represents society and its unwillingness to accept our imperfections. Is each character really a symbol of human emotion? Byron Bunch of hope; Lena, trust; Grandpa Hines, rage...and Joe, bewilderment, anguish and the inability of self-acceptance....on and on with each character. As I said, just an idea I've been toying with.. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (79 of 89), Read 38 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Sara Sauers stsauers@att.net Date: Sunday, October 28, 2001 09:46 AM Beej, yes, Blotner spent some time as a professor at the University of Virginia. The two are pictured together in the biography - Blotner looking extremely proud of his photo opportunity. The "About the Author" blurb now (in 1991, anyway) places him at the University of Michigan. The edition I have of Faulkner: A Biography is a one-volume condensed version of Blotner's full 2-volume bio. Still hefty - it comes in at just under 800 pages. Sara
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (80 of 89), Read 28 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, October 29, 2001 01:01 PM I once read an article about Faulkner that while at U.Va, he attended a college sports practice..possibly soccer. A student, unaware that it was Faulkner, approached him and asked him to act as a temporary referee or some such thing.. Faulkner did this and another faculty member..possibly even Blotner but I won't swear to that, asked the student if he was aware that he had asked a Nobel prize winner to do this. The student was horrified and blubbered out an apology to Faulkner. Faulkner not only 'pooh-poohed' the apology, but also became very involved with U.Va students' sports after that. My understanding is that he had a wonderful relationship with the kids at U.Va. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (81 of 89), Read 30 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, October 29, 2001 03:10 PM I'm beginning to question my belief that Lena was relatively unaffected by her early childhood. So many of the characters isolated themselves and seemed to have a downward spiral only after they removed this self imposed isolation. It seems the sh** only began to hit the fan once they became involved with others. But Lena, despite her search for Burch, and despite whatever alliance Byron feels toward her, seemed to maintain an emotional isolation. Joe's nemesis was that he felt everything so deeply. I don't think Lena had that problem.
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (82 of 89), Read 30 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Monday, October 29, 2001 06:33 PM Just to keep things honest here -- I did finish Light in August yesterday -- and as I said more than once up there -- it was as though I'd never read this before -- I loved the experience just as much as ever though most likely for entirely different reasons. I've pulled some bits out which jostled my gray cells as I read. "Man knows so little about his fellows. In his eyes all men or women act upon what he believes would motivate him if he were mad enough to do what the other man or woman is doing." Sounds like something I've said myself often enough -- though not in quite that way. I think I've even expounded on this theory here overoften periodically over the years {G}. It struck me and stayed with me. 'Because always,' he thinks,'when anything gets to be a habit, it also manages to get a right good distance away from truth and fact.' (Byron) "One wall of the study is lined with books. He pauses before them, seeking, until he finds the one he wants. It is Tennyson. It is dogeared. He has had it ever since the seminary. He sits beneath the lamp and opens it. It does not take long. Soon the fine galloping language, the gutless swooning full of sapless trees and dehydrated lusts begins to swim smooth and swift and peaceful. It is better than praying without having to bother to think out loud. It is like listening in a cathedral to a eunuch chanting in a language which he does not even need to not understand." I thought of the Tennyson and other "old" poets in the poetry threads as I read this this time around -- and felt it touched upon what some of us have said -- that poetry and the rhythm and flow of the words and pauses are often like being within a spell -- like the chanting of those monks/eunuchs -- I also found it a sad peek into the loss of the religious area of his life that Hightower had experienced -- and his replacement of it with poetry seemed quite appropriate. The part which I found perhaps most disturbing was the description of how Grimm somehow took on the aura of authority -- even to the extent that the people were whispering that he was in charge and was specially appointed and the sheriff had no control as a result -- the importance of the words "grand Jury" in setting this mysterious power into motion -- it gave me pause to view the idea of symbolism attached to certain processes and the role it plays in the end results. This also led me to contemplating how this phenomenon may be in play at this time in the ongoing decisions and reactions to the September 11 attacks. I found a lot more weight in LIA this time around I am afraid. But I definitely did not find anything less about it -- it is still one of my top books of all time -- perhaps more so than before. Dottie
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (83 of 89), Read 31 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, October 29, 2001 07:38 PM Dottie, why did Christmas hit Hightower with the chair? I figured his grandmother told him to go to Hightower for protection, but why did Joe attack him? Joe hit his adoptive father with a chair, too. And, because he thought he killed McEachern, he ran and kept running for 15 years. He was running again when he hit Hightower. I wonder if there's a connection. Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (84 of 89), Read 27 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2001 07:57 AM Beej -- you ask hard questions, girl! I'm not at all sure -- other than the fact that he was pursued at the point where he finally arrived at Hightower's and may have thought that had been the plan all along -- he had set out unsure of the truth of the offer even though the grandmother had talked him into trusting it/her. I'm fuzzy about a lot of that end stuff -- the Hightower and Joe interaction and the Hightower sections on what happened afterwards. BUT none-the-less -- I have a theory and it comes from -- that book I mentioned up in my opening post which I put aside to read LIA again -- Joyce's Ulysses. AGAIN -- this happened due to my feeling of the similarities of response to language which I was getting from both books. When I again opened the Ulysses, I found the marker around p.200 and as I began to reread a bit and start onward -- I found I was in a section where there is a discussion ranging over the works of Shakespeare and who wrote what and where the characters fit -- members of William Shakespeare's family and circle of acquaintances and which characters are drawn from these people and which actions and characters are representative of the author. I think Christmas is acting as on an underlying and all-pervasive motivation or impetus in which the sin which he perceives within himself -- that black and white -- is seen as the sin which others before him committed as well -- it repeats and increases somehow until he acts out some violence. Killing Joanna, hitting the people with the chairs. Now here is a quote from Ulysses -- I think it fits -- "--Why? Stephen answered himself. Because the theme of the false or the usurping or the adulterous brother or all three in one is to Shakespeare, what the poor are not, always with him. The note of banishment, banishment from the heart, banishment from home, sounds uninterruptedly from The two Gentlemen of Verona onward until Prospero breaks his staff, buries it certain fathoms in the earth and drowns his book. It doubles itself in the middle of his life, reflects itself in another, repeats itself, protasis, epitasis, catastasis, catastrophe. It repeats itself again when he is near his grave, when his married daughter Susan, chip off the old block, is accused of adultery. But it was the original sin that darkened his understanding, weakened his will and left in him a strong inclination to evil. The words are those of my lords bishops of Manooth: an original sin and, like original sin, committed by another in whose sin he too has sinned.It is between the lines of his last written words, it is petrified on his tombstone under which her four bones are not to be laid. Age has not withered it. Beauty and peace have not done it away. It is in infinite variety everywhere in the world he has created,in Much Ado About Nothing, twice in As You Like It, in the Tempest, in Hamlet, in Measure for Measure, and in all the other plays which I have not read." A response -- "--The truth is midway, he affirmed. He is the ghost and the prince. He is all in all." Stephen continues -- "He is, Stephen said. The boy of act one is the mature man of act five. All in all. ...bawd and cuckold. He acts and is acted on. Lover of an ideal or a perversion,.... His unremitting intellect is the hornmad Iago ceaselessly willing that the moor in him shall suffer." I found myself relating this last to the sin of Grandfather Hines and the daughter and then Joe -- and the cycles through which these things go. Here are the folks on a day in Dublin discussing these ideas from the time of Shakespeare drawn and written forth in such splendid detail of language that it held up for those Dubliners and holds up for us -- and here is Faulkner utilizing these same universals of the repetition of sin and the influence of evil upon the actions of mankind and here we are still pondering them all. Now -- Steve -- I want to pick a small bone with you -- Lena -- is NO dumb bunny. She may be a representation of the force of good within all humans -- to trust -- to put her faith in the eventual good of all things -- to accept and simply to continue to do what she must and can do while taking into herself whatever is given to her by -- fate? the world? other humans? God? I resent this concept being labeled as tied to a dumbbunny. If this is so -- perhaps we need more dumbbunnies in the world. {G} I'm only half serous here --- but I do think this was her role here -- and I think Beej has it well-pegged that Lena is most definitely the ballast to the dark areas which are explored within the character of Joe -- but for pure evil I would put Burch at the top as he enacted all of his treacheries with a deliberateness which far outstripped that tied with Joe's actions -- Joe is constantly torn between the two opposing arenas of good and evil, black and white (and I am not so sure that the evil is always pictured on the Negro side and the good on the white side -- thus I am in agreement that I see no way for folks to read these works and come away with any racist label attached to them. Okay -- I'm done rambling. Still I was totally amazed to step directly back into Ulysses and a section which seemed tailored to the ideas lingering from Light in August! Too strange sometimes! Dottie
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (85 of 89), Read 39 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2001 08:58 AM Dottie, I think Lena had a 'learned helplessness' about her. More of a 'numb' bunny, rather than a 'dumb' bunny. She also had a unshakeable faith in God that carried her through her tribulations. She didn't need to worry. She simply accepted that God would provide. I found Lena Grove to be a fascinating character. The book begins with her story and ends with her story. (How interesting to me that Faulkner would make a female, especially a female such as Lena, the 'Alpha and the Omega', so to speak, of this novel!) She and Joe have many similar experiences..both orphans, both raised by religious fanatics, both escaping through windows, both travellers...to mention a few. Yet, throughout the entire book, they never meet. We've touched on various similarities between Joe Christmas and Christ. But, couldn't the character of Lena be seen as an analogy to Mary, the Mother of Jesus? And Byron Bunch to Joseph? Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (86 of 89), Read 27 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2001 10:46 AM Yes, Lena is a fascinating character -- more so in the context in which we encounter her, though, which says to me that Faulkner was one devilishly clever writer to key this "afterthought" understory to the main events of this dark tale of Joe Christmas to this quiet -- nearly not there woman. Amazing juxtaposition of two threads of writing. As I said earlier -- I certainly found no LESS in this book than at any of my earlier encounters with it. I'm not sure though I'd even give you that learned helplessness -- I would have to go back to the early life of Lena and decide. I do think the comparisons between Lena and Joe are strong -- and I can also understand and see the religious connotations. I'm not sure where we go with Lena as Mary and Bunch as Joseph -- think back to my own question about Burch being more seriously evil than even Joe Christmas as he contemplated and used and worked his evil deliberately. Joe seemed seized by evil-doing periodically even when he had set out for other points -- dragged back into it by a force almost -- beyond his own logical control. And Burch is that baby's father -- Burch is God? I don't like THIS scenario. Maybe I need more time to think this idea out. Or maybe it will fall into place next time I read this -- I wouldn't rule that out. So much in such a fine package -- my initial response and my response still to the book in its entirety. Dottie
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (87 of 89), Read 28 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2001 11:24 AM Well, Dottie..Burch as God? I don't know about that but I suppose if this is a valid observation on my part..this analogy..it would speak volumes of Faulkner's view of God...Distant. Untrustworthy. By the same token, an analogy of Christmas to Christ would follow the same reasoning..do we say then that his racially mixed blood father, a vagabond circus worker, is also an analogy to God? Lena, pregnant, travelling..giving birth in a lowly shack..tended to by a man who is haunted with thoughts of loving a woman not a virgin, and because of this love, accepting an infant not his own. I dunno, Dottie..I think there really might be something to my Lena/Mary, Byron/Joseph idea. Actually, what made me think on these lines was the scene where the grandmother holds the new born infant and becomes confused, thinking Lena was Milly and the baby was Christmas. (If 'Christmas is symbolic of Christ, then Lena must be symbolic of Mary' sort of thing...) Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (88 of 89), Read 30 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2001 12:02 PM The reasons--and I think there are more than one--that Joe hits Hightower with a chair are complicated. I don't pretend to understand this myself. Part of it may be that Joe does not have the capacity to differentiate between Hightower and McEachern, both religious men of God but completely different. Also, he has this immense, even pathological, pride that causes him to reject any understanding or pity because he feels threatened by it. That's the best I can do, and admittedly it is not very satisfactory. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (89 of 89), Read 30 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2001 12:11 PM Steve -- gives us something more solid than what I came up with on this -- there is so much emotional, mental anguish entangled with any choice or decision which this man has made over the years. I do think the religious aspect is one which blocks his acceptance of Hightower just as that aspect changed the course of his troubled relationship with Joanna Burden. Dottie

Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (90 of 93), Read 21 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, October 31, 2001 12:44 PM Before we leave this novel I'd like to understand Hightower a little better than I do. Steve, you say he is a critical character, and I know his story is a prominent one, but I think I'm missing something about him. I know Christmas dies at his home; I know he delivers Lena's baby. But there HAS to be more. Is it the tie to the 'Old South', and how that tie affects his life, that I should be centering on? Is this symbolic of how memories of the 'Old South' (and by Old South, I mean pre-civil war) have affected other characters in this novel? Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (91 of 93), Read 20 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, October 31, 2001 01:25 PM Yes. It seems to me that Faulkner is demonstrating something about the South's romantic vision of and fixation on the war with Gail Hightower. It is clearly not a good thing--a trap that makes it difficult to get on with life in the here and now. This is a remarkable thing for a southern writer to be saying. This "heroic" grandfather, it turns out, was actually killed while trying to steal chickens. It appears to me that Hightower starts to break out of this after attempting to help Lena and Joe, but I don't know whether he does. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (92 of 93), Read 21 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Wednesday, October 31, 2001 01:36 PM Okay, Thanks. So, is it safe to presume there is a point in the fact that two of the major occurrences in his later life have to do with death (Christmas') and birth (Lena's baby)? In that with these, his old ways have died and new ways are forthcoming? And the fact that he says he is dying and yet we don't know if he does die. Maybe he is speaking of dying to his old thoughts (especially in the acceptance that this grandfather did not die a hero.) Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (93 of 93), Read 21 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Wednesday, October 31, 2001 02:52 PM No, thank you. I never thought of it that way. Very interesting. The end result of the juxtaposition of the stories of these three people--Lena, Joe, and Hightower--is pretty remarkable, I think. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Steve
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (94 of 96), Read 10 times Conf: Constant Reader From: S.F. Strahan Date: Thursday, November 01, 2001 04:55 PM I finished Light In August last night (and I'm still behind as I notice that you all have started a Sanctuary thread. ) I found the notes posted here on LIA very interesting and thought-provoking. Someone, I think in the AILD thread, suggested that because of Lena LIA might be considered a chick book. Lena is an important character in the book, but she is not a viewpoint character and her story actually conprises very little of the book. The main portion of the book, some 300 of a 500 page total is complete consumed with Joe Christmas and his crime. Lena's story is sort of tacked on to the beginning and end of that. This book is gritty, violent and totally dominated by male viewpoints, male characters and male actions. No, not a chick book. :-) In some ways, LIA is sort of a psychological thriller. It has a compelling page-turning quality, with suspense, violence, and psychological underpinnings propelling it along at a rapid clip. Authors of comtemporaty pot-boilers could learn a thing or two from the pacing and plotting of this book. I don't know about anyone else, but I picked up a couple of echos of another book in here. The description of Joe Christmas' flight and actions after the murder reminded me of the pursuit of Mink and him hiding out after the murder in The Hamlet And (I may be going way out on a limb here) Lena sort of reminded me of Eula Varner Snopes. True, Eula exuded an exotic sort of sexuality that Lena doesn't, but in both cases the young women are protrayed as being very self-contained. They have a profound affect on men (menfolk help Lena, but womenfolk are less kind as is indicated early in the book) and they possess a sort of power over men. They are both calm and self--possessed. They both become pregnant by men who flee and yet they placidly continue their lives as if nothing untoward was happening (Eula is married off not because she is upset about what has happened, but because others are.) Lena doesn't seem to be a bit put out about not being married. She is very calm and patient. Like Eula she gives the impression of being an inexorable force of nature; she goes after Burch very matter-of-factly after waiting a reasonable amount of time. (You can run but you cannot hide!) I don't think Lena is dumb. I think she simply follows her own protocol and whether or not the father of her child fulfills his obligation is beside the point to her. She held him to his word and made a good-faith effort to locate him so that he could be with his child. I don't think she was all that shocked or surprised that he turned out to be a scoundrel who ducked out on her again. She just struck me as being very self-contained, self-sufficient (emotionally, I mean; she did depend on the kindness of strangers for food, shelter, etc.), and self-possessed. She is a powerful woman, not a victim (and if you doubt this, read the ending of the book again.) Likewise, Eula Varner Snopes in the Snopes trilogy held all the cards--and she knew it. She appeared as a sort of passive embodiment of desire in The Hamlet but by the end of the trilogy you see clearly that she is not a passive non-entity, but a powerful woman. Faulkner gives us plenty of portraits of women who are beaten up, beaten down, and worn down both by life and by men (around whom Southern life revolved), but he also paints interesting portraits of enigmatic powerful women who appear to be passive vessels of faithless man's passion, but are in actuality strong and self-possessed. [SNAP---the sound of the limb I went off on breaking off] I'm enjoying this discussion. Now I'm off to hunt down a copy of Sanctuary! ;-) ~~Susan~~ "Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?" ---Winnie The Pooh
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (95 of 96), Read 13 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, November 01, 2001 09:11 PM Susan, I think Faulkner presents a real dichotomy in his women, they are often victims but they also pull most the strings. I don't think Lena is dumb either. I think her emotions are numb...just numb enough for her to protect her vulnerability. Funny you should think of good old Eula! (I love Eula!) I did too! This really is a page turning psychological thriller..I consider Sanctuary to be one, too. (Hope to catch you down on the Sanctuary thread soon, Susan..its a goooooood book, too!) Beej
Topic: Light in August: Wm. Faulkner (96 of 96), Read 1 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, November 02, 2001 11:47 AM Very, very good note, Susan. I confess that I sometimes say outrageous things, such as characterizing this as a chick book, simply to provoke people. Likewise calling Lena dumb. More accurately, she has about her an unthinking stoicism. She is very much a part of life without pondering it. She accepts life as it is. This, I think, is simply saying the same thing you said in a different way. Steve