Category: Older Books (page 1 of 2)

2010 Books

I figured that since I’ve decided to keep better (and official) track of the books I’m reading this year, I’d compile a list of the ones I read last year. I’m sticking to fiction.

I’ve been keeping track of the books I’ve read for several years now, since around 2005, because I was really bad at remember whether I’d read books or not. Lots of them kind of faded together. I started with AllConsuming but stopped using it once it stopped getting updated. I used Shelfari for a while, then settled on Goodreads once everyone seemed to be using it. I have most of the books I’ve read in the last few years catalogued there, though I know I’ve missed some – especially in 2010.

Which means the list is probably missing a few. At least I hope it is because it seems rather short, though I really didn’t read much. It’s also not in perfect order.

I’ll use the style of Booklover, one of my favorite tumblogs, in which bold means I really liked it and italics means I really disliked it. If it’s neither of those, it was good enough. I’ll add an additional category, strikethrough, for the few books I tried to read and gave up on.

William Faulkner – Sanctuary
Terry Pratchett – Wyrd Sisters
Terry Pratchett – Pyramids
Don DeLillo – Point Omega
Don DeLillo – Falling Man
Don DeLillo – Mao II
Don DeLillo – Libra
Don DeLillo – Americana
Don DeLillo – End Zone
Don DeLillo – Great Jones Street
Don DeLillo – Ratner’s Star
Don DeLillo – Underworld
John Connolly – The Gates
Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre
Anonymous – Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Horace Walpole – The Castle of Otranto
Matthew Lewis – The Monk
Jonathan Swift – Gulliver’s Travels
Haruki Murakami – Dance Dance Dance
Cormac McCarthy – Child of God
David Mitchell – Cloud Atlas
Charles Dickens – Great Expectations
Geoffrey Chaucer – The Canterbury Tales

Wow. That is an embarrassingly short list. Note the DeLillo Binge. I read Americana, Mao II, and Great Jones Street twice, and there were several Thesis Monster-related nonfiction books thrown in there. But jeez – my English degree should probably be burnt.

But this year I’ll do better! One book a week is the goal, and with no classes left I’ll probably be pretty bored. And then there’s the mammoth procrastination. Wish me luck.

The best of the bunch, you ask? I’d say Americana, but I’m so turned off to DeLillo right now that I don’t care if I ever see any of it again. So I’ll say Cloud Atlas with Dance Dance Dance as a close second. I’ve now read every book Murakami has published in English with the exception of Underground, a nonfiction book about the Tokyo Gas Attacks, which is sitting on a bookshelf waiting. I completed my collection with a copy of Pinball, 1973 shipped from Japan. I think his new novel, 1Q84 is due out in English sometime this year, so that one’ll be a highlight, I’m sure, though I disliked his last one, After Dark. I’m going on about Murakami because he’s my favorite author. David Mitchell is kind of similar, as is Gabriel Garcia Marquez. All magical realism.


A note about The Grand Design

Over the past couple of days, I read Steven Hawking’s new “controversial” book, The Grand Design, in which he attempts to prove that God (or some sort of creator) is not necessary for an explanation of how the universe began or how it functions now. I’m generally a fan of Hawking: I read A Brief History of Time several years ago, and I was impressed, though I think it was so many years ago that I only understood a bit of it. I’d been seriously considering giving it another try when I heard all the hubbub about The Grand Design, in which Hawking has changed his mind about the possibility (probability?) of a creator as stated in his earlier book to a justification of his apparent atheism.

From what I gathered, Hawking’s argument boils down to this: Time functions kind of like space – it’s the fourth dimension (of eleven, according to the mysterious, super-theoretical M-theory that will supposedly unite the theory of gravity with quantum theory, which no one has been able to do yet), and when space was curled up into a tiny speck before the Big Bang, time and space could be governed by quantum theory rather than Newton’s classic theory, thus following a completely different set of rules. According to M-theory, time would bend to gravity like space bends to gravity, and since everything was so compacted with such density and strong gravity, time was bent to such a degree that it didn’t progress in the way we know it, meaning that the beginning of time we’ve all contemplated really didn’t exist in the first place, making a creator, who would start time and thus the universe, unnecessary.

Hawking’s morning talk show interviews seem to make “unnecessary” mean “impossible,” which is where my most significant problem lies. Granted, in the book, he makes no such claim. I’m not here to make an argument for or against theism; in fact, I refuse to do it. Hawking’s argument fails to convince me, or even sway me, in either direction, even assuming M-theory is correct.

Which brings me to another point: What, exactly, is M-theory? Hawking says it’s the long-sought-after unification theory of physics, that he thinks it will once and for all unite quantum theory and Newton’s gravity, that it’s not just a single theory but a combination of lots of diverse theories that overlap and make sense in a system. It requires eleven dimensions, one more than string theory’s ten (the extra seven are curled up so small we can’t see them) and claims there are billions of universes coexisting with this one that use the other dimensions and probably have different physical laws, et cetera, et cetera. I lose track when he gets to the part where time, when in the pre-Big Bang dense mass, bundles up with all the dimensions and is warped by gravity so much that it basically stops, though it doesn’t, supposedly proving that time has no beginning. I simply can’t follow the logic, though I can’t pretend to understand M-theory either.

Again, my biggest problem with this whole no-creator argument is that even if we assume M-theory is correct and that a creator isn’t necessary for the universe to exist, can we therefore claim that a creator does not exist, as Hawking has repeatedly said in interviews? I just don’t see it.

A side note: I really miss the philosophy nerds at UNO, with whom I could sit around and discuss things like this over coffee. I’ve yet to meet one philosophy nerd in Shreveport, probably because LSUS doesn’t even have a philosophy department. Which, of course, is entirely ridiculous.

DeLillo Binge, part 6

The thing that sucks about increasingly long, more…academic(?) posts is that I’m beginning to have to psych myself up to write them. So this one’s gonna be short since I’m almost done with the next book in my DeLillo Binge, and I’ve been putting this one off.

I just finished End Zone a few days ago. I liked it more than I thought I would. This was my first impression:

reading end zone. so far, it’s..about football. which is better than being about lee harvey oswald. #delilloFri Apr 30 18:55:43 via Tweetie


I ended up liking it more than I thought I would. There is, though, a really long description of a football game, which almost bored me to tears, except that in introducing it, DeLillo made it just a bit more palatable:

(The spectator, at this point, is certain to wonder whether he must now endure a football game in print – the author’s way of adding his own neat quarter-notch to the scarred bluesteel of combat writing. The game, after all, is known for its assault-technology motif, and numberous commentators have been willing to risk death by analogy in their public discussions of the resemblance between football and war. But this sort of thing is of little interest to the exemplary spectator.  As Alan Zapalac says later on: ‘I reject the notion of football as warfare. Warfare is warfare. We don’t need substitutes because we’ve got the real thing.’ The exemplary spectator is the person who understands the sport as a benign illusion, the illusion that order is possible.) (111-112)

And he goes on and on. I like that he self-consciously acknowledges the reader. While I was reading the ridiculously long account of the game, I kept thinking of this little interlude-of-sorts, and it made me feel better. (Okay, so it’s not that long, but that thirty pages seems to take forever.)

This novel is really interesting in that it goes back and forth between vast, detailed descriptions of football and postmodern theory. After practice, the players sit around and have “real” discussions about not-football, like this conversation about a course one of the team members is taking:

“People keep bringing up that course you’re taking. The untellable. I keep hearing about that course. Nobody talks about it but I keep hearing.”

“So do I,” Ted Joost said.

“There’s not much I can say about it,” Billy said.

“You can tell us what goes on.”

“We delve into the untellable.”

“How deep?” Bobby Iselin said.

“It’s hard to tell. I don’t think anybody knows how deep the untellable is. We’ve done a certain amount of delving. We plan to delve some more. That’s about all I can tell you.”

“But what do you talk about?” Howard said. “There are ten of you in there and there’s some kind of instructor or professor. You must say things to each other.”

“We shout in German a lot. There are different language exercises we take turns doing. We may go on a field trip next week. I don’t know where to.”

“But you don’t know German. I know damn well you don’t. I’m your damn roommate. I know things about you.”

“Unfortunately I’ve picked up a few words. I guess that’s one of the hazards in a course like this. You pick up things you’re better off without. The course is pretty experimental. It’s given by a man who may or may not have spent three and a half years in one of the camps. He doesn’t think there’ll be a final exam.”

“Why things in German?” Ted Joost said.

“I think the theory is if any words exist beyond speech, they’re probably German words, or pretty close.” (181).

There are lots of conversations like this one in End Zone, which is why I think I like it so much. It’s definitely Thesis Material. So far, if I can get my act together, I’ll probably use White Noise, Americana, and End Zone. Using five novels would probably be easiest since I can write a chapter on each, but I think it might be overkill, and when I get to the revision phase and people are actually reading it, I might find my thesis expanding exponentially, which I really don’t want to happen.

Since this is supposed to be a short post, I’ll stop now. I’m almost finished with Great Jones Street, and I’m pretty sure I won’t have much at all to say about it, though it’s not too bad. At least it’s not about Lee Harvey Oswald.

DeLillo Binge, part 5 (or 7)

And my DeLillo Binge continues. The 7 in the title takes into account White Noise and The Body Artist, a couple of DeLillo’s books that I’d already read. I’ll probably reread White Noise when I get down to it, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t like The Body Artist since I remember nothing about it. Maybe that means I should read it again.

This time it’s Americana, DeLillo’s first novel. After Libra, I kind of shifted into an I-want-to-study-DeLillo mode, so I figured it was best to start at the beginning. So here I am. I really liked Americana. DeLillo’s style didn’t change between this one and, say, White Noise, like I’d assume it would: my last post included lists (he loves his lists!) from both novels that had lots in common. I can, though, see marked differences between Americana and Point Omega. But I’ll talk about that later. For now, here’s another list in Americana that definitely brings White Noise to mind:

I visualized my apartment then, empty and dark and quiet, furniture from John Widdicomb, suits from F.R. Tripler and J. Press, art books from Rizzoli, rugs from W&J Sloane, fireplace accessories from Wm. H. Jackson, cutlery from Bonniers, crystal by Steuben, shoes by Banister, gin by House of Lords, shirts by Gant and Hathaway, component stereo system by Garrard, Stanton and Fisher, ties by Countess Mara, towels by Fieldcrest, an odd and end from Takashimaya. (353)

The narrator, David Bell, says all this as he’s hitchhiking along the edge of the desert, having left his apartment, his job, and all this stuff behind in New York City. DeLillo addresses consumerism in some form in all his novels.

Speaking of consumerism and other Postmodern issues, I’ve begun studying DeLillo in earnest. I’m even seriously considering changing my entire thesis from Shakespeare (i’m totally burnt out on him) to DeLillo. So I figured it’d be good if I learn something about Postmodernism since I only had vague ideas about it. I ordered Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge and The Routledge Companion to Postmodernism, and, in the meantime, I discovered that I owned Butler’s A Very Short Introduction to Postmodernism, which I read while I was waiting for Amazon to send the first two. Once I started to get a better idea about what Postmodernism really is, the types passages I found myself marking in Americana changed: they went from “I like this passage” to “Oh! I can probably use this in a paper!” You can see from this photo about where it hit me:

DeLillo is ridiculously postmodern. Ridiculously. Here’s another list that directly addresses consumerism. It’s a dialogue between David and another character, Glenn Yost:

“We begin, simply enough, with a man watching television. Quite possibly he is being driven mad, slowly, in stages, program by program, interruption by interruption. Still, he watches. What is there in that box? Why is he watching?”

“The TV set is a package and it’s full of products. Inside are detergents, automobiles, cameras, breakfast cereal, other television sets. Programs are not interrupted by commercials; exactly the reverse is true. A television set is an electronic form of packaging. It’s a simple as that. Without the products there’s nothing. Educational television’s a joke. Who in America would want to watch TV without commercials?”

“How does a successful television commercial affect the viewer?”

“It makes him want to change the way he lives.”

“In what way? I said.

“It moves him from first person consciousness to third person. In this country there is a universal third person, the man we all want to be. Advertising has discovered this man. It uses him to express the possibilities open to the consumer. To consume in America is not to buy; it is to dream. Advertising is the suggestion that the dream of entering the third person singular might possibly be fulfilled.” (270)

So maybe I should talk about consumerism, but that’s another post. This one is getting too long already. Here’s one more quote (then I’ll stop!). At one point, David is filming a sort of autobiography, and he films an actor who is playing him (David). This section not only involves consumerism but what I’m pretty sure is self-conscious reflexivity, which I really don’t understand but am better able to identify now. This dialogue is scripted, and they’ve just begun filming.

I sighted on Austin against the wall and then started shooting, my voice a cheerful machine designed for the interrogation of the confused and the dislocated.

“Marital status.”

“Divorced.”

“Children.”

“None.”

“Appendix.”

“Excised.”

“What do you think of the war?” I said. [The novel is set in the 1960s.]

“I’ve seen it on television. It’s sponsored by instant coffee among other things. The commercials are very tasteful in keeping with the serious theme of the program’s content. Some of the commercials are racially integrated. Since I worked for seven years as an employee of the network responsible for the warcasts, I am in a position to point out that the network and the agency joined forces in order to convince the sponsor that integrated commercials were desirable. Their argument was that the war itself is integrated. Balanced programming has always been one of the network’s chief aims.” (283-284)

The interview continues, and has Austin address the camera rather than himself: “Can you tell the camera why you didn’t have children?” and later, “The camera dislikes evasiveness,” and so on.

I’ll stop talking now.

Up next is End Zone, DeLillo’s second novel, which is about football. I’m slowing down because it’s the end of the semester (papers!), and I’ve added all those books about Postmodernism to the list.

An early example of Don DeLillo’s enduring love of lists

Now that I’ve read a few DeLillo novels, I’m continuing my binge from the beginning. Right now I’m reading Americana, DeLillo’s first novel. I’ll talk more about it later, but I just can’t help posting this passage:

What we really want to do, he said, deep in the secret recesses of our heart, all of us, is to destroy the forests, white saltbox barns, colonial inns, riverboats, whaling villages, cider mills, waterwheels, antebellum mansions, log cabins, lovely old churches and snug little railroad depots. All of us secretly favor this destruction, even conservationists, even those embattled individuals who make a career out of picketing graceful and historic old buildings to protest their demolition. It’s what we are. Straight lines and right angles. We feel a private thrill, admit it, at the sight of beauty in flames. We wish to blast all the fine old things to oblivion and replace them with tasteless identical structures. Boxes of cancer cells. Neat gray chambers for medication and the reading of advertisements. Imagine the fantastic prairie motels we could build if only we could give in completely to the demons of our true nature; imagine the automobiles that might take us from motel to motel; imagine the monolithic fifty-story machines for disposing of the victims of automobile accidents without the bother of funerals and the waste of tombstones or sepulchres. Let the police run wild. Let the mad leaders of our nation destroy whomever they choose. That’s what they really want, Black Knife told me. We want to be totally engulfed by all the so-called worst elements of our national life and character. We want to wallow in the terrible gleaming mudcunt of Mother America…We want to come to terms with the false anger we so often display at the increasing signs of sterility and violence in our culture. Kill the old brownstones and ornate railroad terminals. Kill the rotten stinking smalltown courthouses. Blow up the Brooklyn Bridge. Blow up Nantucket. Blow up the Blue Ridge Parkway. We must realize we are living in Megamerica. Neon, fiber glass, Plexiglass, polyurethane, Mylar, Acrylite.

Doesn’t it sound like White Noise? DeLillo published this novel almost fifteen years before White Noise. It’s really funny that he has such an identifiable style even from the beginning. For comparison, here’s the very first paragraph of White Noise:

The station wagons arrived at noon, a long shining line that coursed through the west campus. In single file they eased around the orange I-beam sculpture and moved toward the dormitories. The roofs of the station wagons were loaded down with carefully secured suitcases full of light and heavy clothing; with boxes of blankets, boots and shoes, stationery and books, sheets, pillows, quilts; with rolled-up rugs and sleeping bags; with bicycles, skis, rucksacks, English and Western saddles, inflated rafts. As cars slowed to a crawl and stopped, students sprang out and raced to the rear doors to begin removing the objects inside; the stereo sets, radios, personal computers; small refrigerators and table ranges; the cartons of phonograph records and cassettes; the hairdryers and styling irons; the tennis rackets, soccer balls, hockey and lacrosse sticks, bows and arrows, the controlled substances, the birth control pills and devices; the junk food still in shopping bags–onion-and-garlic chips, nacho thins, peanut creme patties, Waffelos and Kabooms, fruit chews and toffee popcorn; the Dum-Dum pops, the Mystic mints.

DeLillo loves him some lists. They are, of course, about different things, and the second is more of a list in the strictest sense of the word. Something about them rolls off the tongue when spoken aloud like a super-postmodern poem of sorts. I think I could probably get a whole dissertation out of these things: they’re everywhere!

DeLillo Binge, part 4

I finished the second of my three term papers yesterday, a day ahead of schedule, so I declared today a Mental Health Day and spent a good chunk of the day at Starbucks finishing Libra, the fourth novel of my Don DeLillo Binge. I had a hard time getting through this one because it’s a historical novel, and I don’t like historical novels. It’s about Lee Harvey Oswald and conspiracy theories and things (as Jacob says, SPOILER ALERT: he dies at the end). Lots of FBI and CIA people lurking about. It’s not exactly my kind of novel.

DeLillo is a brilliant novelist, though, and even though I wasn’t interested at all in the subject matter, his writing is fantastic, and that makes up for a lot. Here are a couple of snippets I particularly liked:

Spy planes, drone aircraft, satellites with cameras that can see from three hundred miles what you can see from a hundred feet. They see and they hear. Like ancient monks, you know, who recorded knowledge, wrote it painstakingly down. These systems collect and process. All the secret knowledge of the world…I’ll tell you what it means, these orbiting sensors that can hearus in our beds. It means the end of loyalty. The more complex the systems, the less conviction in people. Conviction will be drained out of us. Devices will drain us, make us vague and pliant.

Well, that’s about it. Libra definitely isn’t White Noise. But he did call Bossier City “a place where you could get a social disease leaning on a lamppost” (!) and Dallas “the city that proves God is really dead.” Those were the best two parts of the whole damn novel. And there’s the disturbing description of Jackie Kennedy crawling over the back of the car in which her husband has just been shot trying to recover a piece of his skull. Every time I mention that description, someone tells me it really happened. I know.

And that’s about all I have to say about Libra. It’s not bad or anything – I just didn’t like it. I think it’s better-written than Falling Man. Next up is Americana, DeLillo’s first (published?) novel. I have no idea what it’s about, and that makes me happy. I’m going to do my best not to read the blurb on the back. I’ve decided to tackle the rest of the novels in the order they were published, though if I get too close to the end of the summer before I get to Underworld, I’ll skip to that one because it’s so damn long.

Oh, how I love Don DeLillo.

What I found in an article about Mao II

I found this quote in an article by Joe Moran called “Don DeLillo and the Myth of the Author: Recluse,” and it makes me happy:

“There is something predatory in the act of taking a picture. To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as the camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a sublimated murder – a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time.” – Susan Sontag, On Photography

That is all.

(And yes, I’ve branched out into critical articles. This DeLillo binge is getting out of hand.)

DeLillo Binge, parts 2 and 3

So. Remember when I talked about going on a DeLillo binge? Well, that’s what happened. I finished Point Omega and couldn’t stop. And I still can’t stop. I went to Marshall, TX, last weekend and bought a lightly-used copy of Falling Man from a little bookstore called Prospero’s. Falling Man is the novel DeLillo wrote just before Point Omega, and it’s about 9/11. I’m not a big fan of historical (or historically-based) novels, so I wasn’t too enthusiastic. Turns out it’s pretty mediocre. It’s short and about what happens to a family post-9/11. Post-trauma, etc. The second half is much better than the first. This isn’t a review, so I’ll stop there. Here’s the paragraph on which I stuck a post-it note:

But that’s why you built the towers, isn’t it? Weren’t the towers built as fantasies of wealth & power that would one day become fantasies of destruction? You built a thing like that so you can see it come down. The provocation is obvious. What other reason would there be to go so high and then to double it, do it twice? It’s a fantasy, so why not do it twice? You are saying, Here it is, bring it down.

That’s Falling Man, and it was acceptable, though I have almost nothing to say about it.

You’d think a mediocre experience like that might make me wander off to another author, at least for a while, but no! I’m obsessed and insatiable. So, before I even finished Falling Man, I ran off to Barnes & Noble and bought a copy of Mao II, which I thought was supposed to be a historical novel, which explains why I hadn’t read it already. This one is fantastic, a relatively close second to my beloved White Noise. It’s about a reclusive writer, his assistant, his assistant’s girlfriend, and a photographer who takes photos of writers. And Beirut. And a few other things. It’s incredibly DeLillo in all of his listing, sometimes flat ways. I loved every second of it. A couple quotes:

Sitting for a picture is morbid business. A portrait doesn’t begin to mean anything until the subject is dead. This is the whole point. We’re doing this to create a kind of sentimental past for people in the decades to come. It’s their past, their history we’re inventing here. And it’s not how I look now that matters. It’s how I’ll look in twenty-five years as clothing and faces change, as photographs change. The deeper I pass into death, the more powerful my picture becomes. Isn’t this why picture-taking is so ceremonial? It’s like a wake. And I’m the actor made up for the laying-out.

And

The novel used to feed our search for meaning…It was the great secular transcendence. The Latin mass of language, character, occasional new truth. But our desperation has led us toward something larger and darker. So we turn to the news, which provides an unremitting mood of catastrophe. This is where we find emotional experience not available elsewhere. We don’t need the novel…We don’t even need catastrophes, necessarily. We only need reports and predictions and warnings.

I’ve stopped writing in books and started putting little post-it notes over paragraphs that stick out of the side of the book just enough to be detected. I don’t know where this aversion to writing came from, but it started last semester in a modern fiction class when I was reading White Noise. I just couldn’t bring myself to write in it. I don’t think I’ve ever written in a DeLillo book, which is strange because I tend to write everywhere. I’ve even been known to pencil notes into the margins of library books, and I sometimes forget to erase them. But that’s neither here nor there.

Speaking of the library. Just after I finished Mao II, I shut down the Writing Cave for a few minutes to run to the library and pick up Libra. They also had The Names, so I grabbed that one too. I couldn’t decide which to read first, so I chose the former since that was the original plan. They’re both historical novels, and I’m already having a hard time reading Libra, which almost immediately involves CIA and Cuba and other Historical and Political Things I Don’t Really Care About. But it sounds like DeLillo, and, I think, in the end, that’s all that really matters.

ALSO: As a brief interlude between novels, I read a lovely short story DeLillo wrote called “Midnight in Dostoyevsky” that was published in last November 30’s issue of The New Yorker. It’s about two college boys who basically make up the life of an old man they see walking on the street nearly every day, kind of like the game Grady Tripp and Terry Crabtree play with Vernon in Wonder Boys. (As a side note, can you imagine if DeLillo had written Wonder Boys? It would have been even more fantastic. Seems like his kind of novel.)

Spring Break and Don Delillo

My favorite thing about Spring Break is that it’s a little glimpse of the more substantial vacation just four or five torturous weeks away. It gives me some much-needed time to lie on the sofa or sit at a coffee shop, my legs propped up, and read books I haven’t been told to read.

Yesterday, I picked up Don Delillo’s Point Omega, which I’d been wanting to read since I saw a fantastic review a month or two ago. It’s super-short, and I read it in only three or four hours. And I read slowly. This isn’t a book review (I don’t write book reviews), so all I’m going to say is that it’s fantastic. The whole thing is basically a slowing down of time:

It’s all embedded, the hours and minutes, words and numbers everywhere, he said, train stations, bus routes, taxi meters, surveillance cameras. It’s all about time, dimwit time, inferior time, people checking watches and other devices, other reminders. This is time draining out of our lives. Cities were built to measure time, to remove time from nature. There’s an endless counting down, he said. When you strip away all the surfaces, when you see into it, what’s left is terror. This is the thing that literature was meant to cure. The epic poem, the bedtime story.

I liked this novel in the same way I liked White Noise – it’s the same kind of cultural critique that makes you feel a bit empty at the end. Makes me want to go on a Delillo binge, though I have a feeling I’d somehow emerge disappointed.

A couple of notes on Faulkner’s Sanctuary

Before (and shortly after) I started reading Sanctuary, I had a lot to say about it. I’d heard it was very unlike the rest of Faulkner’s work, and I knew about the rape part. I was expecting quite the scene, but it’s not there, and I think that’s why I have so little to say: the first third, or so, is really engaging and scary and frustrating, but then it gets boring. Here’s a short synopsis that probably leaves most of the important plot points out: A wayward teenager runs off with her boyfriend, and he gets drunk and strands her out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by men who can’t control themselves, she’s raped, someone else is killed, and another guy ends up facing a death sentence. The girl runs off with a creepy old man and stays in a whorehouse for a while, and some other craziness happens, and another guy gets killed. Then more of the like happens. The end. It’s like a pulp novel.

That said, parts of it are beautifully written. Here’s the first paragraph of Chapter 16:

On the day when the sheriff brought Goodwin to town, there was a negro murderer in the jail, who had killed his wife; slashed her throat with a razor so that, her whole head tossing further and further backward from the bloody regurgitation of her bubbling throat, she ran out of the cabin door and for six or seven steps up the quiet moonlit lane. He would lean in the window in the evening and sing. After supper a few negroes gathered along the fence below–natty, shoddy suits and sweat-stained overalls shoulder to shoulder–and in chorus with the murderer, they sang spirituals while white people slowed and stopped in the leafed darkness that was almost summer, to listen to those who were sure to die and him who was already dead singing about heaven and being tired; or perhaps in the interval between songs a rich, sourceless voice coming out of the high darkness were the ragged shadow of the heaven-tree which snooded the street lamp at the corner fretted and mourned: “Fo days mo! Den dey ghy stroy de bes ba’ytone singer in nawth Mississippi!”

I love it! The end is really nice, too.

Besides the first third and the occasional nice language, Sanctuary seems pretty forgettable, unlike Sound and the Fury or As I Lay Dying – even Absalom! Absalom! is more interesting, and I didn’t particularly like that one. That said, I have a similar relationship with Faulkner as I have with Whitman: I outright hated him for a while, but then I reread Sound and the Furyand really liked it.

I think I liked the beginning of Sanctuary because it’s so un-Faulknery in that I can see the first half of the novel happening in Haughton or some other terrible little place around here, and that was fascinating. The rest, though, seemed removed in the same way something like the trial in To Kill a Mockingbird – like it couldn’t happen now. Maybe I got confused about how time works in Sanctuary, or something, but it kind of just turned me off. It could also that it took me almost a month to read it because since the semester started, I’ve usually only been reading just before bed.

Speaking of bed, I’m glad I finally finished it: I had a terrible dream last night. I don’t remember the whole thing, but I had to go to the doctor, and the two ladies in the whorehouse were deciding when I was going to go, and it was somehow terrible. I was half awake, staring at my clock for a good ten or twenty minutes before I finally convinced myself that I don’t need to go to the doctor and that they have nothing to do with my life. I really hate dreams like that, and it took me a long time to get back to sleep.

Okay. I realize that in all this talk, I haven’t really said much about Faulkner or about his novel, and I think it’s because, at this point, I’m almost entirely disinterested. I’m forgetting it already. It could, of course, have something to do with the fact that I read the last hundred and fifty pages or so in a codeine cloud (it was cough syrup!), and now, I’m really really tired.

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