Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 31st: William Faulkner
A Month of Short Stories and Their Authors

now reading: Missing Justice by Alafair Burke

Wheeee!  Made it to the 31st of July, my Month of Short Stories. And for the last day? That sweet southern nemesis o' mine.

Today's Story: "That Evening Sun Go Down"
Author: William Faulkner
My Rating: A

A-minus? A? Did I round up to try to make up for being so mean to William Faulkner over the years?

I did not enjoy reading William Faulkner when I was a teenager. In high school, I famously hated his "Barn Burning" so much that I stapled it together in my AP English text so that my book would never accidentally fall open to those pages. "A Rose for Emily" didn't quite rub me the wrong way, but "Barn Burning" just eclipsed everything about him for me. Why did I hate it so much? Who knows? I can barely even remember it now, but I generally loved English class, and I hated that story. All through my English major college years, I continued to badmouth Faulkner at every opportunity and I studiously avoided reading his novels, even The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying, which I now feel like everyone but me has read. I haven't even read his two (two!) Pulitzer winners yet. But I will. Once I decided to read all the Pulitzer-winning fiction and sample every Nobel author, I knew I was doubly doomed and would have to dip back into the Mississippi maestro's writing. Someday.

Anyway. It's not like I thought I'd get through a month of short stories without some Faulkner. How could I possibly dream that The Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike of all people, wouldn't present me with some Faulkner? And so today, the last day of July, the end of my short-story-a-day project, here we are, with "That Evening Sun Go Down." At least that's what this book calls it. Apparently it's also known as "That Evening Sun." Does it really matter, since the sun is not around much in this story? Darkness is everywhere.

And for those keeping score: we're up to 1931 now, and still authors are freely using the n-word. To be fair to my southern man here, he also uses "Negro", while "n*****" is basically used in dialogue, spoken by white and black people, and it's absolutely part of the point of the story, with Nancy saying she is "just a n--" as she has been taken advantage of by white men and basically violently and horribly dealt with by all the men, white and black, although our narrator's father does try to help, to a certain extent. But Nancy knows her doom is coming.

Sharp dialogue? Vividly rendered setting? Action that incorporates flashbacks while propelling the story forward? Realism? Spooky commentary on humanity? It's all here. How do you not give Faulkner an 'A'?

What, seriously, did I hate so much about "Barn Burning"? Should I go back and read it to find out, or will it put me off of him all over again, when I really need to be checking his novels off of my life things to read list?

Anyway, we now wrap up July, and my Month of Short Stories and Their Authors has come to an end.
Later, we shall have a post-month reflection and examine the results!

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