Monday, August 25, 2008

Light in August: the Jacqui's Room Notes

In which my inner math geek has a field day with Faulkner.

No video today, real or imagined, as I have just written the last* new scene for my young adult novel** and am feverishly typing and compiling.***

I tried a haiku, but really I think of Light in August as more of a math problem where:

Light in August = (Mississippi + August + 1932) x (Pregnant wanderer + defrocked reverend + lying bootlegger + angry biracial murderer)

Or maybe it's a recipe: Faulkner takes vivid, yearning characters and mixes them into a broth of racial tension and southern heat...

Other thoughts (no spoilers):
1. Faulkner's characters are truly unique. They are multi-dimensional, diverse, and far from stereotypes or archetypes. Further, the setting itself, both in terms of time and place, is a character, really, acting to propel the plot as much as anyone else. The book starts as a "what do you get when you cross..." story, but Faulkner follows through and is meticulously faithful to the characters he's created and the world they inhabit.

2. This is the most hopeful depressing book I've ever read. The first character we see is Lena, pregnant and abandoned, walking across Alabama in search of the father of her child. She is convinced his message calling her to him has been lost. "I reckon I'll find him," she says. "It won't be hard." She never wavers from that feeling, and Faulkner paints her faith so simply, so without judgement, that instead of thinking, "That fool!" like everyone she meets, we want her to find him, even though we know it's unrealistic.

3. Lastly, stream of consciousness is more fun to write than to read.**** I very much enjoyed the book and the characters were the main reason why. I felt for them and wanted them all to "win" but even I had to skim towards the end when there were entire pages of internal conflict. I had the strange revelation that, like many beginning writers, Faulkner got worried that we wouldn't get it, so he diluted his beautiful story with a ton of "the point" at the end. Makes me want to go back to the ending of my own book and delete all the "hints;" if it doesn't work without them, the whole thing's not working and spelling it out at the end is far from the answer.

On to Faust...

* And by "last" I mean "last for now" or "last of the ones that weren't written at all before now, to say nothing of the ones that are just sketched out, full of gaps, or abominations to the written word."
** And by "novel" I mean "collection of scattered scenes, some old and some new, that I hope will miraculously congeal into a coherent mass as I type."
*** And by "feverishly typing and compiling" I mean "trying to find my flash drive."
**** Collective sigh of "tell us about it!" from all blog readers


Amber Lough said...

You absolutely amaze me. Do you sleep, or do you have superhuman powers? Do your kids nap most of the day? Do you have a housekeeper like in the Brady Bunch?

I'm just proud of myself for getting the kitchen cleaned and having the foresight to use the slow cooker for tonight's dinner so that the kitchen will STAY clean for a few more hours.

Jacqui said...

Amber, I do have one, giant, vastly helpful super power:

day care

But I do most of my reading at night, so, no, I do not sleep nearly enough! And you should see my kitchen!

Tabitha said...

Yay for that last scene in your book!! That's got to be feeling great, congrats!!! :)

Marcia said...

I've always struggled with Faulkner because of his stream of consciousness. It's funny, though. On the one hand, we say "Don't spell it all out as if you're afraid readers won't get it." On the other hand, you don't spell things out in your work and your crit partners say, "I don't get it." Maybe it's the difference between classic lit, which you're supposed to study and the onus is on you to understand, and recreational reading, which we want to be 100% comprehended at a glance. I do know that as a jr. high English student, I would have appreciated any further clues to the "deep meaning" and symbolism we were supposed to be digging out of our assigned texts.

Kristi Valiant said...

So glad to hear you're making great progress on your novel - congrats!

My book for the week was Gulliver's Travels. I really enjoyed it. The book did a great job of showing how strange and not very wise other customs appear to us when we first see them in another land, but eventually after living there for awhile, we adopt those customs or at least get used them, and feel culture shock about our own homeland when we return to it.

I experienced that double culture shock in spending a summer in some poorer areas of China. Obviously I had culture shock when I arrived there, but I was a bit surprised by the culture shock when I returned to the U.S. We spent our first night back at Venice Beach in LA, and the vulgarity and amount of waste I saw was simply shocking after being where I was. Of course, I felt like hugging the stoplights in LA because drivers actually obey them - they don't in China. One thing that took a long time to get over was being repulsed by bakeries. In China if something looked like chocolate in a bakery that I was passing, it wasn't, it was actually nasty red bean paste. It gave me an involuntary twitch whenever I saw a bakery.

Anyway, back to Gulliver's Travels - very fun book!

Jacqui said...

Kristi, I have never read Gulliver's Travels and you make me want to.

I went on a weeks long road trip camping and hiking through the southwest one summer. We made our way through Death Valley and then on a whim, decided to hit Vegas, which I had never seen. Wow. Culture shock. It made my eyes hurt. I just kept saying, "Where is all this water coming from???"