Friday, February 4, 2011

Sartorial Patination—Faulkner at UVA

Ahhh…Faulkner. I’m gonna give him another go at some point. Probably in the spring. I’m good with Welty. I appreciate the dark, overwrought genius of Flannery. A Dickey poem or two still resonates even though he was a misogynistic turd. And thanks to Pat Conroy, I’m gonna give Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel another try. If Pat gleaned half as much from it as he says he did, then I’ve gotta give it another go. But something ruined me for Faulkner in college. It’s been too long ago to recall the exact circumstances but I do remember the physical manifestations of pain associated with my Faulkner reading assignment. Anyone care to suggest a short-in-length Faulkner story that would be good for my reorientation? …because if I bottom out again with him, I’m probably done for life.
Faulkner intrigues me in rather predictable and obvious ways. I know what it’s like to be “southern”…with all of the good and bad that goes along with it. I was reminded this week when I was back in the woods of north Georgia, literally, that remnants of the bigoted Deep South still exist. Faulkner was of two centuries and his incongruence and obtuseness intrigues me. Probably because I’ve never felt a complete absence of those dynamics personally…even when, or maybe more so when, I’m alone with my thoughts. 
Faulkner reveled in his southern-ness and perhaps more precisely, his Oxford-ness but didn’t seem to mind a basking intermittently in other more contemporary or less provincial realms.
He appeared to loathe Hollywood but he didn't refuse the opportunity to do work out “there” …typing in the sunshine and basking in paychecks that were neither late nor rubber.
Aviators…pipe…typewriter. A shirtless Faulkner in Hollywood. You can't buy style. Even rural, southern aplomb can't be bought at the farm co-op in the Delta.
 1957-1958 saw Faulkner at the University of Virginia. The writer in residence gave several public talks while at UVA and if you’re remotely of my ilk, you might enjoy hearing Faulkner's voice. God bless those UVA operatives who decided to tape the Faulkner lectures.
I became well acquainted with a local intellectual property attorney about ten years ago. He represented us in a litigious matter…thankfully, quite well. He was at UVA amidst Faulkner and even though most of my meetings with our attorney were stressful and anything but fun, I enjoyed his stories of interacting with the man from Mississippi.
And then…there was a pair of Faulkner’s shoes. Let me just say that I had an “experience” with a woman in Richmond a few years back. We were talking about her connection to the Faulkner family…I won’t divulge the full nature of the connection but suffice it to say that it was bona fide, long in tenure and she was more than a collateral relation to the clan. “Do you want to see his shoes?” she asked. Well of course I did and she emerged with a pair of old brogue lace up work shoes. I sat with Faulkner. At least with his shoes, while sipping cocktails and angling for my next move with the Faulkner shoe owner. The three of us—just sitting there.
Faulkner scholars may know something about whether or not he manifested an affect…whether some of his rumpled-tattered-squire persona was concocted. I certainly don’t know, but his sartorial patination seems authentic to me. Now if someone can just help me with his stories.

Onward. Rumpled-tattered and anything but authentic.
ADG II

31 comments:

yoga teacher said...

Try "A Rose for Emily." It's his only short story that I remember without having to grab a book. Pleasantly creepy. I still have a shelf full of Faulkner, some read and some not yet, and the not yet is getting longer and longer. It's hard to slow down enough to get in the Faulkner groove, because he's not a pick-up-and-put-down kinda author for me.
ps: There was a can of bag balm on Houston Heights Freecycle the other day. Was that you? :P

Anonymous said...

Very nice, sir. I'd recommend "A Rose for Emily" as a good short story at which to begin.

Flo said...

Max, this great little essay is written by a noted Faulkner scholar, I think you'll find it useful, just basic framework so you don't have to go back into WF's convolutions blind.

http://www.oprah.com/oprahsbookclub/Faulkner-101-How-to-Read-William-Faulkner/print/1

Charles Hansen said...

Also try "That Evening Sun." I too was turned off of WF in high school and college by The Sound and the Fury (all literature teachers screw that up). About 8 years later I was at LAX to catch the red eye. I had finished my book and needed another. The choice was between pot boilers and WF's Absalom, Absalom. Read it straight through to NYC. Truly wonderful. I have been hooked to this day.

Hilton said...

I recently asked the same of an English professor while we were in a doctor's office (Shrink). (mandatory for the upcoming surgical procedure) Perhaps teaching Faulkner caused him to seek professional help.
He stated that The Unvanquished was Faulkner's most accessible novel.

Be careful.

Would you care to read an article written by a journalist that conducted an interview regarding my plight? It is also in his most recent book.

Anonymous said...

Absalom, absalom....check out that Elizabeth Taylor lookalike sitting to the right of the suited fella on the floor. I need to go southwards again.

ADG said...

Thanks everyone. I feel already, that I'm on the way to a successful reconnection with Faulkner.

Hilton...YES...I would very much like to read the story/article. You can email me the details at maxminimus2000@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

Beyond short stories, you might also consider "The Town" part of the Snopes series of novels but very much an accessible read in comparison to his more critically acclaimed novels. The Town (2nd in the series but more entertaining than 1st) also provides a wonderful overview of the larger themes that run through most of Yoknapatapha; laugh out loud funny in sections and oh so poignant re: the South and changing times...

Anonymous in NY

Gretchen said...

Brave man, indeed, reading Faulkner. Healthcare policy not taxing/annoying enough? Congrats, or something...I'll stick with Stegner! But, once Hilton sends you that article, some additional details would be well appreciated.

NCJack said...

Fully agree with starting with "The Unvanquieshed", also "Sartoris", gives a grounding in just who the Compsons, Stevens, etc. are. Never could figure out why HS kids got "Sound and Fury", might as well have tossed 'em into "Ulysses" about halfway through

Anonymous said...

For Faulkner that is truly light and a great place to start, is "Knight's Gambit," a collection of detective stories, but using the familiar Faulkner characters and environment. The one that IMO best warrants the hard work, as others have pointed out, is Absalom, Absalom.

--JFD

Anonymous said...

A writer, concocting a self-image? My god, are you mad?

Anonymous said...

Wait. Is that a shofar he is blowing?

C.Sharp said...

There was a photo of him that appeared in National Geographic many years ago that I believe is part of the collection that the standing at the door shot is from. My memory is a little hazy but I believe He is wearing the same outfit while talking with an African-American gentleman holding a mule. I guess what struck me was how he could wear gloriously tattered tweed and canvas with such aplomb.

Flo said...

Max, how are you sartorially commemorating this new year of the rabbit? Might I suggest:

http://www.bensilver.com/Woven-Hare-Tie-in-Taupe-and-Purple,17801.html

oldominion said...

All of the above suggestions are good ones. But mine is the best:

Go Down, Moses.

You're welcome in advance.

Had to read it at Sewanee in the 80s for a southern lit course. Had never been able to get much out of Faulkner but I read the multi-hundred page GDM two times in a single week. It remains one of those revelatory experiences I can remember clearly lo these 20 plus years later.

Also, according to legend, Faulkner became tired of people calling him hard to read and high-minded, and supposedly needed some bank, so he sat down to write one for the masses. What he produced is 'Sanctuary'.

If you read either of these and don't like 'em I'll invite you to Baltimore and you can watch me eat one of my Alden suede chukkas.

LPC said...

Brilliant. Both his white jacket and the idea of you finally confront your Faulknerian alter-ego.

Preppy 101 said...

Please do read "A Rose for Emily" and then imagine teaching that short story to a class of juniors in high school. Even in this age of being completely desensitized, this story could still "creep them out". :-) Have a great weekend! xoxo

ADG said...

oldominion....that's a hell of an endorsement. And I will insist that you munch on the Aldens if I have trouble with it.

LPC...alter-ego? Can't be. Faulkner was only five feet-five inches tall. I'm five-five and three-quarters.

Is that a shofar? ... Sho far as I know...it is.

The Wounded Healer said...

Tremendous photographs!

Anonymous said...

Nice to see old Faulkner blowing the Shofar. Didnt realize he celebrated Rosh Hashanah :)

ADG said...

He was also a freelance Mohel.

Flo said...

"Brilliant. Both his white jacket and the idea of you finally confront your Faulknerian alter-ego."

No, YOU brilliant LPC, that's so gooood!

Andrew said...

Have to suggest "As I Lay Dying" for a Faulkner intro. He was the original writer to look at multiple perspectives of the same story, and if you've ever dealt with a family (like an in-law sort of thing) where everybody seems to have their own ulterior motives when doing something, the book suddenly makes SO much sense on SO many levels.

Anonymous said...

"freelance" Mohel. Good one ADG.

the architecturalist said...

Try "The Reivers", his last novel. Much easier (and quicker) to get through than the earlier works. "Serious" Faulkner readers may look down on it, but it's my second favorite of his novels. Absalom, Absalom! being the first.

Young Fogey said...

Just read the Cliffs Notes and be done with it!

;-)

Summer is a Verb said...

I think I spy Bean's ragwool sock. 'Member those itchy things? XXOO

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Try "Soldier's Pay." Early stuff. But you can see where he's headed.

Theo said...

I've only read Pantaloon in Black, from Go Down, Moses(a collection of short stories), for a uni course. It was really great and I suppose being short stories, they're easier to pick up & put down. I too struggled with Sound & Fury, if that gives you any idea.

Derek Warren said...

Appreciate the post. I just picked up "The Ponder Heart" and "Go Down, Moses". I'm from The South but have been reluctant to embrace its literature until now. Thanks!

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