on 23 February 2014
Facing possible death, a character in a novel I read recently (possibly Jonathan Franzen’s ‘Freedom’) ponders some of the things left undone in their life. One of these is the question, ‘Is Faulkner any good?’ After reading four of Faulkner’s earlier novels, it was a question I didn’t feel I had an answer to, but that has changed after reading ‘Light in August’. Although the book pivots around a woman’s death, this is not a crime novel; or rather it is, but told in Faulkner’s inimitable way. Set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, the story follows several characters – a young, single pregnant woman; a labourer at a saw mill; a former Church minister; a middle-aged Yankee woman; a young labourer cum bootlegger named Joe Christmas, to mention a few – and jumps back and forth in time, sometimes covering the same events from different view points. Though Christmas’s story could be said to be at the heart of the novel, the book’s strength lies in the way other stories, and thus other lives, intersect with Christmas’s own. In the end, what we have is less a novel about a supposed crime than a portrait of a society, and one from which it is possible to understand the nature of and responses to that crime. Many of Faulkner’s trademarks are here, such as his concern with race, miscegenation, patriarchy and Puritanism, and how these are interwoven with bigotry, discrimination, violence and a concern with honour and reputation. Also present are those habits that can put readers off: the piling up of adjectives; a certain evasiveness in the writing of key plot events; and passages that are sometimes simply baffling. Yet despite occasionally struggling through his novels, there is something that has drawn me back to read more, time and again, and after reading ‘Light in August’ I would have to answer the question as to whether Faulkner is any good with an emphatic ‘Yes’. This book, ‘a landmark in American fiction’ according to my copy, is a good place to start, it being a more straightforward read than, say, ‘The Sound and the Fury’ and ‘Absalom, Absalom!’
on 16 April 2001
This a Faulkner's major work which could be considered as one of the best American novels of the 1930s. On its surface, Light in August seems to be a chaotic narrative of life in the deep South after Reconstruction. However, such a chaos mirrors the chaos of a whole society unable to cope with the shadow of racism. For it is racism, the very truth behind racism, what Faulkner explores in this novel.
Behind the violence and confusion of Faulkner's narrative, there is a glance into the very core of human condition. Faulkner shows how we are, our fears, our secret dreams, our prejudices. Although, Faulkner's style is complex, the reading of "Light in August" is utterly rewarding.
This book represents the best introduction to Faulkner's novels and to the history of the deep South. Anyone interested in American literature should read it.
on 29 January 2013
This Faulkner novel has all the character types and the odour of the deep south of America that might be expected. The narrative not only holds the reader's attention, it draws him/her in. Little quirks of pronunciation of the English language are not obtrusive. The Modern Library hardback is nicely produced with readable typeface, good quality paper and binding.
on 14 September 2013
Magnificent work, rightly named in 100 best twentieth century novels lists.
This Kindle edition is slightly marred for me by the numerous misprints ('be' for 'he' just one typical example)in this Random House edition; in this respect it compares poorly with several of the free Project Gutenberg books I have downloaded. Poor show Random House.
Faulkner's style takes a little getting used to: his overuse of the words 'myriad' (employed both as a noun and adjective) and 'threatful' is a minor irritation. However,having just discovered Faulkner,it certainly made me realise what a craftsman he was and I certainly intend to read others.
on 4 March 2004
Don't read this when feeling depressed about the state of the world - it's Southern Gothic mix of racism, poverty, violence and general depravity will do little to relieve your angst. That being said, the novel is beautifully written and well-worth a read. Faulkner is a master of scene and his sense of pacing is incredible. Overall, an unsettling, but powerful work.
on 21 August 2013
This remains my favourite novel by this great author. Themes, images, narration pace, psychology, social issues... Nothing is missing. Unique in his style, Faulkner presents a mercyless fresco of his social enviroment with uncommon talent and, even in the most tragic moments, he provides a "solar" effect in our imagination as readers. Just try and see this "light in august" in his pages.