Faulkner Friday: Audiotastical, Listening to him from then, in the present, now.
August 7, 2009 9:27 AM   Subscribe

Faulkner Friday: Listen to William Faulkner read from As I lay Dying, while enjoying a photo montage of his life. Part Two. Still not satisfied? Then listen to Faulkner read from Old Man. Part II. Bonus: Audio of most of his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
posted by Atreides (20 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I remember we read that class in college Narrative Lit. Nobody talked during discussions until one day I got fed up and I raised my hand. I told the teacher I didn't like the book. All the people were jerks, I had no sympathy for them. Suddenly the whole class broke into murmurring agreement.

The teacher simply asked us if maybe Faulkner wanted us to dislike the characters. I hadn't thought of that and I realized that it was a great book because it got me to hate these people pretty strongly.

I still didn't like the book though.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:35 AM on August 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh I love Faulkner Friday!!
posted by nosila at 9:41 AM on August 7, 2009

Faulkner Friday is way cooler than Flash Friday.
posted by HumanComplex at 9:41 AM on August 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also: what a total babe.
posted by martens at 9:46 AM on August 7, 2009

Faulkner sure knew how to sell that moonlight-and-magnolia shit to gullible Yankees, didn't he? Like Hee Haw with a goddamn thesaurus.

/Faulkner hater
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:06 AM on August 7, 2009

I don't know if the following is actually true or not, but within my first week of attending Bard College, I was told a story (by multiple people independently of one another who may or may not have heard it collectively from one source) about how Faulkner had spent some small amount of time there as a visiting professor, and had - though he was married - developed an affair with one of his students. eventually, they say he proposed to her and she told him no because, as I said, he was already married.

anyway, I like Faulkner quite a lot, and was even inspired to give my father a pocket watch one time with the inscription "I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it."
posted by shmegegge at 10:08 AM on August 7, 2009

BitterOldPunk: "/Faulkner hater"

you only say that because you're from one of those states that he convinced me were full of mental deficients and spousal abusers.
posted by shmegegge at 10:09 AM on August 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Heh. I was hoping the 'listen' link would be Faulkner simply reading, "My mother is a fish." This is thoroughly awesome, Atreides. I have always been a big reader, but around age eighteen, Faulkner, this novel and The Sound and the Fury in particular, utterly redefined my notion of literature. (Also spoiler alert: don't dig too deep into the TS&TF link if you haven't read the book yet. Unless you want the puzzle completely put together for you before you start. In which case, why read the book at all?)
posted by barrett caulk at 10:13 AM on August 7, 2009

There's a story involving Faulkner and his stint in Hollywood as a screenwriter. I've heard this story set while Faulkner was collaborating on The Big Sleep, and I've also heard it set at another (nebulous) point in his career. Even if it is only apocryphal, I like it.

Much like many other literary figures in the 30s and 40s, Faulkner was summoned to Hollywood and tapped to write. Faulker quickly discovered that studio life -- working in a busy writers' building, constant interruptions from execs, all that fun stuff -- just wasn't for him, so he politely asked if he could work from home. The studio (either Howard Hawks if you hear the Big Sleep version or Jack Warner if you hear another version) obliged, believing Faulkner would then work over at where he was currently staying.

Instead, Faulkner happily travelled back to Mississippi and stayed there until he received an irate phone call (again, either from Hawks or Warner) demanding to know what the hell he was doing all the way across the country. Faulkner responded "Well, you said I could work from home... so here I am."
posted by Spatch at 11:48 AM on August 7, 2009

Thanks very much for this. I've always loved Faulkner, but the first time I heard him read his own work my appreciation kicked up to a higher notch. The man has one of the all-time great reading voices, perfectly suited to his own work (which can't be said of a lot of authors). Just listening to him makes me feel the sweltering heat of Yoknapatawpha and the intolerable weight of history.

I feel sorry for those who can't appreciate one of the greatest of novelists, but hey, we all have our blind spots. Myself, I don't care for ballet. (Note, however, that I consider that a deficiency in myself, not a failure of ballet.)
posted by languagehat at 1:30 PM on August 7, 2009

Casual Faulkner Friday.
posted by Rashomon at 1:40 PM on August 7, 2009

I'm currently knee deep into a biography of Faulkner and thought I'd see if there was any video footage online I could watch of him. Instead, I found these readings, which I had read about him creating only a day or two ago.

Toward the Bard College story, it's one of those half true, half not stories, as I've gathered from the biography. I don't believe he ever was a professor in any sense of the world, but did visit the school, in part because he was having an affair with a student named Joan. Faulkner had several affairs, but never seriously contemplated leaving his wife Estelle.

I first seriously began to read Faulkner only a few years ago, intending to read one of his books and move on to another author. I successfully finished reading A Light in August, then some months later, gasped for air, surrounded by finished copies of about 2/3rds of the rest of his work before finally reaching for another author. It was a wonderful experience.
posted by Atreides at 1:42 PM on August 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

for myself, I find that I always claim to love a given type or art or medium, but insist that its luminaries are its worst examples. as in:

well, I love opera, but fuck Caruso. guy couldn't sing his way out of a paper bag.

well, ballet's pretty amazing, but what the fuck is with Swan Lake? I mean, shit, if I wanted to watch people dance like ducks I'd go to a square dance.

Classical Music is absolutely my favorite type of music, except that Beethoven shitbag.


I do these things... because I am an asshole.
posted by shmegegge at 1:44 PM on August 7, 2009

Incidentally, I think more people would enjoy Faulkner if they didn't start off reading his experimental stuff like As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury, which are often trumpeted as the works that absolutely must be read.
posted by Atreides at 3:17 PM on August 7, 2009

Really Atreides? As I lay Dying is my favourite book of his. Some of the stuff can get a bit scenery-chewy for me at times.

This said, I do really like Faulkner, and feel like he's such an important (albeit well recognised) branch of American literature (I say this as a non-American). I found it very interesting earlier this year when I got into some Sherwood Anderson and could see his antecedents so clearly.

Shame about being a racist bastard, though.
posted by smoke at 5:16 PM on August 7, 2009

" . . . the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

He must learn them again. He must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid; and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed - love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice. . . ."

posted by exlotuseater at 5:38 PM on August 7, 2009

Smoke, my feeling is that the two works I listed are perhaps the least accessible of his books to pick up and get that "hook" of Faulkner. People work too hard on understanding them, particularly Sound and Fury, that they may be turned off from his other works, which aren't nearly as obtuse. As I Lay Dying isn't as bad, though. I enjoyed both books, mind you, but if someone asked me for a Faulkner to read, I wouldn't suggest them. I've been contemplating picking up some Sherwood Anderson, and frankly, working to flesh out my Southern writers, which begins with Faulkner and ends with Wolfe. ;)

I haven't perceived Faulkner as being overtly racist, at least for his day. For your average, run-of-the-mill Southerner, I'd think he was fairly enlightened. That's not to say that he sprung from his mother's womb with such a mindset, but as he grew older, he became less conservative in that area.
posted by Atreides at 7:42 PM on August 7, 2009

if anyone was in the Oakland airport last sunday 8/2 around 8:30pm, please corroborate the fact that William Faulkner was being paged from the Southwest front ticket counter over and over and over again for like an hour by two different people. because i knew i was going to go crazy eventually but i thought i still had a few years.
posted by i'm offended you're offended at 11:00 PM on August 7, 2009

I wasn't thinking so much of his novels, Atreides, and I definitely agree: for his day he was relatively progressive.

Still.. comments like this:

In 1956 Faulkner gave an outrageous (and drunken) interview in which he said he would, like Robert E. Lee, fight against the United States on behalf of his state even if it meant leaving "the middle road" and "going out into the street and shooting negroes." Although Faulkner later repudiated these remarks, Baldwin's Partisan Review essay "Faulkner and Desegregation" presented a powerful case for the prosecution.

In the wake of the controversy, Faulkner published an article in Ebony magazine, "If I Were a Negro," in which he urged leaders in the black community to "go slow" on desegregation and to adopt the nonviolent tactics of Gandhian "flexibility" instead of--as he saw it--forcing recalcitrant Southerners into a fight. "Decency, quietness, courtesy" and "dignity" would prevail, while confrontation would only lead to violence.

The Sherwood Anderson was really interesting. Winesburg, Ohio is mind- blowingly, astonishingly forward-looking and influential for 1919. You would swear it was written 30-50 years later than that, and compared to the ornamented writing at the time it really stands out.

You can also see how the writing was a clear motivator, in my opinion, for two diverse streams of American lit, the Hemingwayesque stream, and the Faulkner-esque stream. It's an odd combination.
posted by smoke at 12:09 AM on August 8, 2009

I think Faulkner encapsulated much of the racial turmoil that he often wrote about. As progressive as he was, detesting segregation, there were certainly lingering feelings and presumptions born from the environment that he emerged from. He obviously struggled with this heritage, as seen in your quotes above. As such, I think it's disingenuous to simply label him a racist bastard.

From the sound of it, I look forward to checking out some Anderson. I'll actually be reading some Hemingway shortly, so I'll have to make a point to internalize more of his style for later comparison.
posted by Atreides at 8:15 AM on August 8, 2009

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