05 April 2008

Faulkner vs. Hemingway, Round One.

Reading Faulkner. Been a long time coming. I read "Barnburning" in twelfth grade and loved it. I think I should have dove in right there and then. His wild style, full of page long sentences and parenthetical streams-of-consciousness and his predilection for using adjectives in pairs, especially if they have the same first letter or prefix, all would have walloped by impressionable young mind. I am enjoying him, but it is a difficult adjustment to make from two and a half months of Hemingway fixation. It's analogous to when you've been doing seventy-five on the highway for two or three hours and you suddenly come off an exit and have to slow down to forty or thirty-five. I won't be reading the most famous works. No The Sound and the Fury or As I Lay Dying or Light in August. I am reading the unedited, originally intended version of his first Yoknapatawpha County novel, which was his third novel, originally severely edited and titled Sartoris but in this version titled Flags in the Dust; his underrecognized book that interweaves two alternating novellas as dramatic counterpoints ten years apart, [If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem] still published under the name The Wild Palms even though that is only half the book (the other half being Old Man, about an escaped convict from an imprisonment where he works the land by the Mississippi under aimed guns and return to barracks to sleep at night during a flood who risks his one shot at freedom trying to rescue a pregnant women); and Go Down, Moses, of which I read "The Bear," another novella, about seven years ago, whilst losing my mind at Skidmore, rambling through the woods, feeling out-of-body and dropped back on earth after an alien abduction of which the memory had been erased, unable to shake the haunting strains of "Sleight of Hand" from my head.

I like to read the Deep South stuff aloud. "Old man Falls roared: 'Cunnel was settin' that in a cheer, his sock feet propped on the po'ch railin', smokin' this hyer very pipe...'" Flags begins, and it reminds me of William Blake's magnum opus, a work that is deeply influential to me and a favorite from my Skidmore period. When I read literature written in dialect, I need to cultivate the character and act it out to myself. I can't just let a voice that developed sit on the page, a confusing mess for the eyes.

As a note of interest to Stephen King and The DarkTowerfans, Faulkner's middle name is Cuthbert, and his parenthetical italicized streams-of-consciousness and his gun-waving Southern Gothic characters have definitely influenced King's style and vision.

This summer, finally? Maybe? If ka wills it...

Wouldn't it be nice if we were older....and we had money for nice books?

I've got to get started on my final paper for Stoney's Studies In American Literature 1900-1945 (Hemingway and Faulkner) in which I must do at least ten pages in the Reading Hemingway's... style, on any Hemingway or Faulkner book of my choice, and then at least five pages of typical essay writing. I might choose a book we've already read this semester in the interest of time. I asked him about True at First Light as a possibility, though, since I picked up a copy at Barner's on hardcover. He said I can't read that book without reading Under Kilimanjaro concurrently or right after. He was one of a board of five people that made the decision about whether the unfinished manuscripts Hemingway wrote about an African safari he went on with Mary late in his life and put in a vault as "insurance" for his family would be released. A deal was invented and carried through by Stoney (who, as he tells it, cast the winning vote that allowed both those books to be in print). The people most interested in making bucks could put out a bastardized version (courtesy of son Patrick Hemingway) on Scribner and call it True at First Light. Their's would come out first and get all the critical attention and be called Hemingway's final novel and all that. Then Stoney and the scholars--people not objecting to making bucks but most interested in making history––could put out a much more true to the manuscript, complete version with introduction, glossary, critical apparatus, and so on at Kent University State Press and let it stand in its full ragged glory, warts and all, for people to take away from what they would and judge as they saw fit. Robert W. Lewis, chief editor of the Reading Hemingway's series, and Robert E. Fleming edited and assembled the final product and called it Under Kilimanjaro, a sensible title, since Mt. Kilimanjaro does overlook the plains of East Africa where the hunting took place and because it is a major piece of Hemingway's symbolic landscape, used to ultimate religious significance in Hemingway's excellent--and to me, always personally troublesome--story, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro."

Well, back to the reading. It's a beautiful day outside. I might have to do that ol' walk-and-read trick I developed in my Skidmore days again. Of course, April's muddy earth does not lend itself to well to traipsing without attention.


frankie teardrop said...

is that a beach boys pun i spy?

KLA* said...

indeed. pet sounds, pet books, pet lions, la de da...

noiselessinfinity said...

I find making bucks over preserving the artistic intention to be somewhat abominable; thumbs high to Stoney for voting to preserve the integrity of the work itself.

It calls to mind the fact that most Kafka translations available since fuck knows when have been translated from the Max Brod edited versions. Only recently have original manuscript translations become available. Guess I'll be buying The Trial again.