Friday, January 15, 2016

Light in August - William Faulkner

Light in August
Title: Light in August
Author: William Faulkner
Publication Date: 3/12/1931
Pages: 507
Genre: Classic / HistoricalFiction
How I Found It: 100 Best Novels
Date Completed: 12/28/15

Summary: A small town is rocked by scandal when a pregnant woman appears looking for her baby's father. Meanwhile, racial tensions and identities complicate lives. 

What I Thought: When I started this challenge, I thought Faulkner would be one of those authors I would come to treasure and appreciate. I had never read any of his work before. Now, having completed the third of his three books on the list, I find myself woefully ambivalent. I absolutely appreciate the beauty of and thought behind his work (particularly the innovation of The Sound and the Fury); yet, I find myself disconnected from his plots. I struggled to engage with them.

I'm unfortunately finding this a recurring theme for the works set in this era of American history. As horrible as it sounds to admit, I cannot connect with the poor farmers and small town folks of the first half of the twentieth century. In some ways, this kills me, as I know my own grandparents and great-grandparents were among these very types of folks. Conversely, though, I recognize my socio-economic separation from these characters and find myself both grateful to be standing on the hard work of my parents and grandparents and also more understanding of my own lack of understanding. Of course I don't connect to these characters. Almost nothing about their lives translates to my own.

It's the very essence of human nature that must be boiled down and extracted from Faulkner's work in order to appreciate it. Of course, this, frankly, takes more work and more brain power than I am sometimes willing to give. Never let it be said I do not recognize my own failings in the "get-what-you-put-in" style of this heavy literature. 

Ok - but for this book...

As with a lot of Faulkner's work, there were moments when I had trouble keeping track of who was who. At the start, just as I got invested in the story of the mysterious, traveling pregnant woman, Faulkner jerks you away to a storyline several years previously. This fluid style of storytelling, exemplified best in The Sound and the Fury can be really frustrating. Light in August, to me, landed in the middle of The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying in regard to continuity and ease of understanding.

Faulkner's style is so very different from most modern authors - understandably so. Still, it's that gap that can make it difficult for me to follow his writing or connect with his characters. It's that gap which leaves me in appreciation of his work, but not looking to read any more of it any time soon. 

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Doubtful
Other Books By William Faulkner: The Sound and the Fury / As I Lay Dying

A Reduced Review: Faulkner's writing shows depth of human experience, but I still find it hard to connect.

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