Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What makes writers tick

On what makes writers tick by Natasha Mostert.
"An artist is a creature visited by demons. He doesn't know why they choose him and he's usually too busy to wonder why." -- William Faulkner

My book club came to the conclusion last night that Flannery O'Connor is a better short story writer than novelist. Only two of us made it through to the end of Wise Blood, which is rather sad and a little pathetic, I'll admit. Faulkner is hard for me too. I still wonder whether you have to be born in the USA to appreciate him fully. I have American friends who worship the man. Readers, please do weigh in.


Jessie said...

Faulkner and O'Connor are two of my favorite authors, and I actually quite enjoyed Wise Blood. I grew up in the Northeast (US), and am not entirely sure why I connected so much to the Souther gothic style. The rhythm of their writing tends to be very slow; sometimes it builds, sometimes not. But the messages are often so subtle and ambiguous -sometimes not - and I appreciate this.

Light in August is one of my favorite books of all time, because it is one of the few books that I have read that made me physically feel something as I was reading. Not many authors have that talent.

Miss Whistle said...

Dear Jessie,
Thank you.

Would you suggest Light in August over, for example, The Sound and the Fury, which is always the book people seem to associate with him? Your description made me very excited to read it.

I really appreciate your comments.
Very best,

Sindre said...

Miss Whistle;

If there was such a thing as Faulkner Light, The Sound and The Fury wouldn't be it. As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary & the aforementioned Light in August are perhaps more welcoming entryways into Faulkner's works - not to mention Go Down, Moses, which I perhaps would start with; you're sort of introduced to his moral universe through a child protagonist. (Much of S&F is told from the perspective of what we once called a retard.)

And as to whether one has to be American to fully appreciate Faulkner, I can only say that, to this Norwegian reader, he's the one to beat, as far as 20th Century literature is concerned. But then, I like O'Connor, too. In particular her novels. And particularly Wise Blood.

Faulkner worked at the college post office in Oxford (MS) while writing S&F. He eventually was fired for various derelictions of duty, and perhaps dereliction in general, and said "I reckon I'll be beholden to folks with money all my life. But thank God I'll never again be beholden to every son of a bitch that's got two cents for a stamp."


Jessie said...

Well, I liked Light in August over The Sound and The Fury, though I'm not sure I can adequately explain why. It was the first novel of his that I read. I liked the story line, which is, in the end, so heartbreaking and metaphorical on many levels. To me, it is also so relevant on a purely humanistic level (mainly, the character of Joe Christmas).

Perhaps it was my mood on the day that I finished it, but I actually felt as though someone had stabbed me in the heart (sorry, I know it's a bit dramatic!), and I have rarely been so moved by reading a novel like that. As with his other works, the subject is heavy and it takes some time for the rhythm to build, but I definitely think it's well worth reading.

Relatedly, I always thought that Hazel Motes' Holy Church of Christ Without Christ was a brilliant idea!

I really enjoy your blog.


Miss Whistle said...

Dear Sindre,
My long lost Norwegian friend! How nice to see you here. Thank you once again for you measured and enlightened comments. Of course a Norwegian would love Southern Gothic literature. Hamsun could have been Southern Gothic!
xx Miss W

Dear Jessie,

Now I know which book to read next. Thank you for your passionate appeal. I agree with you about Haze Motes' church. Have a lovely day and thanks again for your support.

xx Miss W

Sindre said...

Miss W;

I believe Faulkner admired Hamsun's work - and will admit to an innate susceptibility as far as Goth stuff goes. It occurs to me that you would enjoy a Norwegian poet - Jakob Sande? He wrote in 'nynorsk', hailing from the fjord country on the west coast, which is kind of like the Ozarks or Appalachia as far as genetics and culture goes. (Not sure what the English equivalent is - Wales? Yorkshire?) Anyway - Sande is as Gothic as Gothic gets. I suspect very little exists in translation, but found this:

His most famous poem is called "Etter Ein Rangel"; After a Binge. Sample couplet: "Tomorrow I'll stop cutting people with knives. I think." The caveat of course runs through the entire list of resolutions.

Again - not sure if you're able to read "nynorsk" at all, but if so, his stuff should be easy to track down. It will cure you of the occasional homesickness, assuming that Norway is home enough to be sick for now and then. (Which is where you and me both end up in the "perennially confused" section.)


Liberty London Girl said...

Faulkner: impossible for me too. LLGxx