am 14. Mai 2004
I once heard an English teacher describe William Faulkner as "Our Shakespeare". He said that the southern culture provides so much for a novelist to work with and Faulkner works it to the limit. I saw much of Shakespeare in "Light In August" as Faulkner transports us into the minds and culture of the depression era South. Lena Horne, traipsing from Alabama to Mississippi in search of the father of her unborn child, Joe Christmas, the self-proclaimed mulatto outcast, Gail Hightower, the minister whose obsession with the past cost him his wife and pulpit and Joanna Burden the heiress of the Carpetbag family who never became a part of the community in which she lived her life all provide us with an insight into this world.
More than Shakespeare, "Light In August" reveals Faulkner, in my opinion, as a Twentieth Century Poe. In Poe's work it is often the sounds that make the work. In "Light In August", I was entranced by the dialogue and the streams of consciousness which revealed the characters and their world to the reader.
I cared little for the story line, but the sights, sounds and the smells of "Light In August" make it a worthwhile read.
am 15. Oktober 1998
In my opinion, the triple narrative of the novel(Lena, Hightower, Christmas), while it may be important to balanced structure of LiA, is superseded by passionate portrayal of Joe Christmas. The life of Lena, and characters connected with her (Burch, Bunch), represent what is usually taken as a norm of realistic novel. It is skillfully written, and, it seems to me, Faulkner intended it to serve as a bridge to "average" people and to end with the message of hope. Hightower is especially important to Faulkner as an example of wasted life, effectively destroyed by history's grip on minds and hearts of descendants of the Civil War's losers. He is depicted with air of aridity-sexually humiliated and deserted from wife, socially ostracized with innuendos of homosexuality and "nigger loving".Ironically, we may say that grand finale of his life and fulfilment come with his unselfish, but unsuccessful attempt to save Christmas from Grimm, even taking on himself accusation of homosexuality (he claims that Joe was with him in the time of death).In masterfully drawn final agony death liberates him, but in whirlpool of recent (Joe, Grimm) and Civil War (burden of history again) images. A few factors combine to ruin his life (history, Calvinist heritage, hypersensitivity-and also attempts (futile) for social and racial justice). He is a figure of great pathos, especially faulknerian in sentiment of "lost" life and inability to achieve a fulfilled life (all Faulkner's "positive" characters are childless, unable to cope with women, socially inferior). In the preliminary draft Faulkner intended Joe to be killed at the age of 33-the age of Christ.Three, maybe four strands are interwoven in the case of Christmas.First, there is a christian symbolism-his initials J.C., preliminary 33-ys death. Second, he has mythic prechristian attributes (follows life path of an archetypal hero: has no knowledge of his parents and ancestry, during his life has to face many mythical obstacles and impediments in his search for identity, at the end is dismembered like Dionysus, and, in final scene of mutilation and castration, his "triumphant" face that will haunt his pursuers, reminisces on "triumphant", or, risen Christ.) He is too violent to be purely christian figure-his "victimness" combines pagan and christian mythology. Third strand-he's like a hero of popular melodrama (young, handsome, unhappy, cursed, everyone against him, including himself.) Fourth-time and place:he is a victim of racism, social phenomenon that is shown as an abstraction, but a deadly one (Joe looks "white", probably is-his constant reminding that he may have negro blood is only a sign of his self-destructive impulses; Faulkner deliberately didn't clear this question, which is the main tragic theme of the novel. At the end, he is killed not because he had killed Joanna (another social pariah), but because he had slept with a white woman.) He doesn't know who he is (and I think that Faulkner in Japan, in Nagano, said:" To be deprived of self-identity, not to know who you are, and to know that you will never know, is the worst condition that can happen to man."), and suspicions that he might have partially negro blood, the fact he almost physiologically hates- all this makes him hate himself most intensely. The very fact that he, as a white racist, may be, at least partially, the hated object, leads him, step by step, to self-destruction (his end is in fact suicide-although he has a revolver, he doesn't want to use it.) To conclude: Faulkner's intention with his main character was to put not white racism, but what we could call convulsions and victimization in the struggle for self-identity.Faulkner's main hero cannot escape circumstances, cannot find liberation in universal human values, cannot escape his maniacal obsession with racial identity. Irreducible to social, psychological & psychoanalytical explanations (however alluring and "natural" they may seem, especially because of naturalist setting), Christmas is the only mythic hero in modern literature, by far surpassing Joyce's Bloom and Mann's Moses and Joseph. While Lena and Hightower are indispensable for overall balance of the novel, they're minors compared to Joe. To state in even more reductionist and extreme manner: at once murderer and victim, hero and villain, black and white, Christ and Devil-Christmas *is* "Light in August".
am 30. April 2000
Light in August actually follows 3 loosely connected stories, Lena searching for rhe father of her to be born child, Hightower, the disgraced preacher of God and Joe Christmas, which is the common thread between all of the characters. Like other Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury comes to mind), the reader needs a degree of patience since with continued reading, his qestions will eventually be answered. In this lays the only flaw of the book - a synopsis is given where the reader knows what happens, leading Faulkner to flash back to the details almost immedaitely following. Among the themes one may be able to read into is the representation of man by Joe Christmas. The fact that he MAY have black blood and his death at Christ's age of death may question whether Faulkner saw him as a Christ- like figure and what would happen if Christ had arrived in the South in the early 20th century (after all there is some question whether Christ was actually dark skinned, which would be read as having black blood in 1930 Mississippi).
At times a bit long winded, nevertheless a interesting read.
am 28. März 2000
Light in August was the first book I read by Faulkner and, as I found out when I started reading Absalom, Absalom!, it was a good thing that I blindly chose Light in August first. Light in August is a very excellently crafted work, and I liked it because of my bias against those overly-religious, self-righteous individuals who experience the character flaws of all of us, all the while attempting to cover them up. Gail Hightower should be given much attention when you are reading this book. Faulkner's ability to create setting and mood is exceptional, and this is important in the development of theme and the development of Christmas, the story's main character. If you get through this book with no trouble, I suggest you try reading Absalom, Absalom! Most reviewers comment that it is "unreadable," but I have not found that so, for Faulkner writes with such a unique and moving prose style that I am compelled by his stream-of-consciousness and peculiar mechanics. Come on people, I'm a senior in high school, surely you can digest it. Read Light in August!
am 26. Juni 1996
If in the ever churning wastes of time you are confronted with a book
that speaks to you, says out loud and fast, Doug, I have no
punctuation and no plot but only earth and blood and endless,
fascinating permutations on the futility of the past and what it means
to wander through Mississippi when the wisteria is in full scent, you
have heard this book calling you to examine the abject passivity of
Lena Grove, the violence of Joe Christmas, the possibilities of the
run on sentence, the fruit of generations of bitchery and abomination
(Ed. note- not gratuitous profanity- it's integral to the book), the
chances of winning some silly contest, and the genius that wrote
everything he did. It's the place to start on Faulkner.