52 in 52 Week 43: Light in August by William Faulkner

LightInAugust.jpgI read along with The Oprah Book Club during the "Summer of Faulkner" in 2005. I was excited that her book club had turned to classics, and I had embraced her "Summer of Anna Karenina" with gusto, even getting my 1 second of fame on her website! (I looked for it, but it has been removed from her website.)

I read As I Lay Dying during a 15 year anniversary getaway and thought that was a very bad idea because Faulkner was so depressing. Then, I read The Sound and the Fury during July and was both depressed AND confused. When August came around, I gave up on reading Light in August because I thought I hated Faulkner.

I wish I had kept on reading.

I honestly believe that, if you have to read Faulkner, this is the one you should read. It is a very good story. It moves along. It has twists and turns, and it keeps you reading. It is about racism and Christian symbolism and the South. Now, I finally understand why people who like Faulkner REALLY like Faulkner. I think he is a brilliant writer.

It is good, but it is LONG. It took me a while to get through it (I started in July and didn't finish until the first week of September, but it was cool to read it in August based on the title. Something I had failed to do in August 2005).

Southern fiction is not my favorite, but I had an epiphany when I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Angelou said that her mother from California talked so fast compared to people in the south. That made me understand why Southern Fiction sort of bugged me. So, I slowed down and read/listened to it like a Southerner; slowly savoring. It helped that August is the "slow" month in our life and ministry. It made it much easier for me.

Here is the poem I wrote while waiting for George to get off of work at OSU:

Summer breeze
Makes me feel fine
Blue sky beyond leaves of green
I look up as a cloud floats
Listening to slow Southern fiction
On the campus lawn
On my back
 — at Kidder Hall.

Here is what Wikipedia says about the title of the book:

Speaking of his choice of title, Faulkner said,
". . .in August in Mississippi there’s a few days somewhere about the middle of the month when suddenly there’s a foretaste of fall, it’s cool, there’s a lambence, a soft, a luminous quality to the light, as though it came not from just today but from back in the old classic times. It might have fauns and satyrs and the gods and—from Greece, from Olympus in it somewhere. It lasts just for a day or two, then it’s gone. . .the title reminded me of that time, of a luminosity older than our Christian civilization." [2] 
Within the novel itself, the title emerges most explicitly whenever Gail Hightower sits at his study window waiting for his vision of Van Dorn's cavalry raid. The vision always occurs in "that instant when all light has failed out of the sky and it would be night save for that faint light which daygranaried leaf and grass blade reluctant suspire, making still a little light on earth though night itself has come." [3]In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Light in August 54th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th centuryTime magazine included the novel in itsTIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.[4]


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