Shorts by Faulkner

A couple of Saturdays ago I finished my collection of shorts by William Faulkner. I was most interested in reading the story “Two Soldiers.” A short film based on the story won an Oscar this year.

I’m rather jealous of Faulkner’s name. Not that there is anything wrong with Barnett, but Faulkner just has a nice ring to it. Notice:
“So what are you reading these days?”
“I’m reading Faulkner.”
“Ooooo.”
See? It just sounds cool to say you’re reading Faulkner.

Faulkner’s writing style and subject matter are both interesting. His novel use of adjectives is at times perplexing. For example, he once described silence as “infinitesimal .” What is that suppose to mean exactly? I think I have a general idea, but the concept is vague at best and meaningless at worst. I also was frustrated with his liberal use of pronouns. There were some moments I could only determine the antecedents by finishing the paragraph and then picking out what was most logical. Some times identifying which “he” he was referring to was a total crapshoot. Finally, it seemed many of the thirteen stories in this collection had no climax and unresolved conclusions. The narrative just meandered along, building up some tension, never releasing it, and then ending.

As far as subject matter, most of the stories took place somewhere down South and usually somewhere between the Civil War and the First World War. Relationships between underprivilged blacks and whites were common plots. “Dry September” is about a black man who is accused of raping a white woman and is lynched for it. His guilt is an open question at the end of the story. The dialogue and sometimes the narrative is written in the abbreviated, idiomatic speaking mannerisms of country folk of the time. Sometimes this was annoying, but over all it added more to the atmosphere of the stories than it detracted from my enjoyment of the stories.

I think I’d recommend at least borrowing this book from a friend or a library. I wouldn’t say this is a must for any Well Stocked Library. If you do borrow it, I’d recommend these stories, skipping the rest: “Two Soldiers,” “Lo!,” “Turnabout,” “Honor,” and “Race at Morning.” “Two Soldiers” and “Turnabout” are definitely the best.

2 thoughts on “Shorts by Faulkner”

  1. Yes, because they’re short, and the pronoun problem isn’t that bad. I was just surprised to see such a respected author playing fast and loose with them. At least read “Two Soldiers” and “Turnabout.”

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