Wednesday, June 04, 2008

I suppose you could. It'd be very Faulkner-y, "The Snopes done come to meetin' "looking, though.

The above quote was from a discussion I had with Ms Llew about wearing China Doll Dresses and petticoats. If pressed, I'd probably say specifically from Sanctuary. I hardly ever quote myself for a title, but I thought it was funny.

I can't believe it's been over two months from my last entry. I was in a local community theatre production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum for much of it. It was just as pointless over-dramatic and fraught with disaster as you think. I may well get around to discussing it more (there were some legitimately funny things in it) but not now.

One of the reasons that I started with a Faulkner mention is that something about this time of year always makes me pick up one of his books, and then read several more. I started out this year with where I left off with The Hamlet last year*. That doesn't really work, so I started off from the beginning of it again and finished it within two days. I want to finish The Town and The Mansion before summer gets too far along.

I decided to hold back a bit and try something else. This may (appropriately enough) be the Summer of Southern Writers. Before moving on to The Town -- which I could only ever find in the last volume of the Library of America series, although Wikipedia shows that somewhere there's version to match the old school Vintage editions -- I decided to read Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward Angel, especially since it's roughly contemporary to Faulkner on a few levels.

But it's far harder going that Faulkner. I don't want to say it's clunky, but... it lacks a certain evocative economy when compared to Faulkner. Wolfe is into minute detail and laborious description. Most strikingly, he tries to affect something akin to a literary montage -- an early-ish chapter on morning in Altamount comes to mind -- that attempts to pile incident upon incident to evoke morning. In purely visual terms, it would work. But a picture being worth a thousand words, the result in a novel is long-winded description for its own sake that doesn't achieve a lot. Stylistic masturbation?

I wouldn't be surprised. Wolfe himself was never one to decry his own talent; it's hard not to see that kind of ego in the prose and what it asks of the reader. It isn't quite so bad as to make me throw the book down (yet), but it requires of the reader a certain dedication that I'm just not sure is warranted.

What's really scary is that this is the /edited/ version of Wolfe's work. When he died, he left hundreds of manuscript pages that his editor just sort of hacked into his last two novels. I read bits of The Web and the Rock in college, and what I recall of it corresponds to my worst fears.

When Wolfe died, Faulkner called him the best writer of their generation. I just don't see that. Maybe by the time I finish LHA, I will.

*I think I started Absalom, Absalom! at least eight times before I finished it.

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