One of my favorite things about William Faulkner‘s Light in August is the language. His use of repetition is soft and alluring and draws the reader in.
“He stepped from the dark porch, into the moonlight, and with his bloody head and his empty stomach hot, savage, and courageous with whiskey, he entered the street which was to run for fifteen years.”
“The whiskey died away in time and was renewed and died again, but the street ran on.”
The street running on recurs in the novel–in both language and image.
It should have come as no surprise to me when I recently discovered that Faulkner was also a poet. Apparently he referred to himself as a “failed poet.” Read this and see what you think:
“He thought that it was loneliness which he was trying to escape and not himself. But the street ran on: catlike, one place was the same as another to him. But in none of them could he be quiet. But the street ran on in its moods and phases, always empty…”
And if you’re one of those people (I am) who likes to hear the writer’s speaking voice, you can listen to part of Faulkner’s December 1950 Nobel Prize speech online. In the speech, he says that the only subjects worth writing about are “the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself.”
If you’ve never read Faulkner,I recommend starting with Light in August.
Great post, thanks. I’ve just finished “Light in August”and I agree about the power of Faulkner’s language. As well as his descriptions of the main characters’ thoughts and feelings, his treatment of the heat and the landscape seem to burn off the page. I’m now reading “Other Voices, Other Rooms” by Capote, but is there a Faulkner you could recommend for my next book please? Many thanks
Johnny, thanks for leaving a comment. As you know, I loved Light in August. I also loved The Sound and the Fury. It’s more difficult to read, but just replying to your comment makes me want to read it again. Some people think As I Lay Dying is his best, and a friend of mine loves The Unvanquished. I don’t think you can go wrong with Faulkner, but my vote is The Sound and the Fury. Let me know which one you choose!
Hi Cynthia, Many thanks for your advice. On your recommendation I’ve now started “The Sound and the Fury” and I’m very impressed so far. I recently read “Ulysses” for the first time, and that has certainly helped me in the opening chapters Benjy narrates. This certainly won’t be the last Faulkner I read!
Have you always been a fan?
Hi Johnny, so glad you’re reading The Sound and the Fury. The first Faulkner I ever read was his story “The Bear,” which I read when I was a senior in high school and loved. Too quickly, I tried to read The Sound and the Fury, which I was not ready to tackle. So no Faulkner for years and years and years. Now I’m looking forward to reading them all–The Unvanquished and Go Down, Moses are waiting in my to-be-read stack.