In case you haven't heard, Oprah's back. The book club will once again be featuring contemporary authors. Oh frabjous day, calloo callay! My turn is surely right around the corner (cough, snort, snicker).
Apparently, Faulkner failed to pull in the readers the way contemporary novels have in the past: “While sales soared for some of her classic picks, like ‘East of Eden' by John Steinbeck, others did not reach expectations, most notably this summer's selection of three novels by William Faulkner. “
Uh, ya think? As I Lay Dying is about a corpse which gets nastier and nastier as the family tries to get to town to bury it. The Sound and the Fury is a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing. Light in August is the most straight-forward novel of the three and it spends an inordinate amount of time on a self-absorbed preacher and his inability to get over an incident that happened before he was born.
Really, in spite of my sarcasm, I love Faulkner. As I Lay Dying is my least favorite, probably. The mother is the most selfish creature and the father isn't any better. Irritating group of people, though the Christ imagery is well done throughout the novel.
TSATF is greatness indeed, idiot or not. The part about clocks slaying time is so good. Quentin Compson's section is probably my favorite. Poor kid. But, Light in August, in spite of the preacher, is a tour de force novel about race relations and not belonging. Joe Christmas is compelling. His story is sad and inevitable and unfair, but you see it coming anyway. This novel should be required reading for everyone.
I'm glad Oprah chose those novels, even if sales weren't brisk. People who might never have otherwise read them picked them up and tried. Surely, more than a few made it to the end. I probably only got through them when I did because they were assigned reading for class. One of the good things about lit classes is being forced to read novels you wouldn't otherwise. Ha!
My favorite Faulkner, however, is Absalom! Absalom! I'd have never finished it if not for the fact I had a grade riding on it, but am I ever glad I did. I've read that this novel is his most difficult and complex. I'd have to agree. It doesn't have the obvious difficulty of Benjy Compson's opening section to TSATF, but it's a story within a story within a story. Getting to the truth is ultimately the reader's responsibility. The novel demands a lot, but it's well worth it.
I never kept up with Oprah's picks, but I know I've read a few of them. I probably have a few more on my shelves. I even have the Franzen, though I think he's a snot. I didn't spend money on it, though. Someone gave it to me. Even if he's a brilliant writer (I don't know since I haven't read him yet), he didn't have to be so damn elitist about being chosen. Definitely a turn off, and insulting to his fellow writers. Really, is Toni Morrison low-brow? I don't think so.