Sunday, January 24, 2010

From the nearest tree

Current book: Light in August
Pages read: 291 - 480 (end)

I forgot to post on Friday, but instead you get a surprise Sunday post. Excited? Oh, I know.

Well, somehow I got all confused, and it turns out that Lena's lover was actually Joe Brown, the bootlegger partner, not Joe Christmas, the murderer/half-blood. So, there's that. Um, I wish I could remember more of what happened in the conclusion, but there wasn't actually that much. Joe Christmas is on the run for a while, and then he gets caught in a nearby town when his grandfather and grandmother find and recognize him. His grandfather, it turns out, had killed Joe's mother and her lover for having the illegitimate, mixed-race child that was Joe, and given him to the orphanage himself, years ago. His grandmother has been searching for him ever since, and is happy to have found him, though devastated by the circumstances in which she does. After Joe's caught, they haul him back to the courthouse, fail to properly guard him when he's transferred from the jail for his trial, and he's killed by the local mob's vigilante justice, led, of course, by his murderous and crazed grandfather, who still hates him. (How was that for a sentence full of clauses? Just call me Henry James.)

Joe Brown, in the meantime, after being confronted with Lena's newborn son (I forgot to mention, but Lena gives birth in here, too. It's very low-key.), runs away, leaving Burch to take care of Lena. It's clear that Lena is, for some reason, reluctant to marry Burch. He wants to marry her and take care of her, but she's holding him off. (Due to a sense of honor, perhaps? Or maybe just caution. Girl has kind of gotten burned.) The last thing we see is the two travelling north, toward what end, we can't say. (Which is obviously supposed to echo the beginning scene, where Lena's travelling on her own.)

Quite advanced for his time period, Faulkner. Like I said, I didn't see the social commentary coming. It's clearly a reflection on how racism in the South is destroying the lives of its inhabitants, but it's also a reflection on the savagery of the small-town community in general. There's a certain amount of existentialist acceptance of circumstance, too, since the end gives one a feeling that nothing changes, regardless of the dramatic series of events that might occur. My only complaint is the long sections of the life and family histories of seemingly minor characters, but I have to respect the fact that Faulkner's doing his best to craft an intricate portrait of Southern small-town society, so I can't really fault him for it. I have to admit that he's shattered my prejudice against him. Faulkner is an excellent writer. I believe this book is, in fact, worthy of the list.

Oh, William Faulkner. I thought you would suck, and you didn't. Good job.

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