Thursday, January 28, 2010

#4 - "Light in August" by William Faulkner

I've finished my fourth book from the list; finally. I'm currently in my hotel room in Cairo and the city is alive following what seems to be a pretty big win for the Egyptian soccer team over rival Algeria. The game was the semi-final of the Africa Cup, and is taken quite seriously by the locals. Walking the streets earlier this evening, every shop with a TV had a small crown of men around watching the game on the edge of their seats; or I guess the edge of their...feet.

Near the end of the first half, Egypt scored the game's first goal, sending the people in the streets into a frenzy. There was screaming, hugging, honking, and flashing lights. When I would stop at a shop and watch some of the game, I'd receive a series of confused looks, and then get asked who I was pulling for. Not caring one way or another, I'd of course answer Egypt, and then receive a pat on the back and invitation to get closer to the TV.

I suppose the atmosphere is much the same as during a hockey game in Canada, except without alcohol. Seems a little weird. People in Canada don't usually get so wound up about a sporting event without the help of a few drinks! Now that the game is over, and Egypt prevailed 4-0, the honking and cheering can be heard throughout the city.

Back to the book, I did finish Light in August earlier in the day, fulfilling my vow to do so before I returned to Canada, which I do tomorrow. I'm still not sure what I t

hink about this book. On the one hand the story is interesting, and the themes Faulkner explores are relevant even today, but I still found it so confusing and slow at times, that I don't know what to think.

The story takes place in the racially divided South in the 1920's and follows a couple of different story lines which naturally become intertwined in the end. Lena Grove is a
poor white girl, searching for the father of her soon to be born child. Joe Christmas is man of uncertain heritage (he's of mixed blood), searching for his place in the world; a world that doesn't look kindly upon people who are different. Neither one of them fit into the Southern society, and both are in a way, outcasts. As the story evolves, the deeply ingrained prejudice of the South rears its ugly head, leading to the destruction of several people within the small town that serves as the setting for the story.

Now that I've finished the book, I do find the constant time shifts used throughout less confusing, as I can piece together the entire story and put it into a more linear context. But the jumping from different times and different places, what Time magazine describes as "outside the zone of normal chronology," was just too confusing for me, and often distracted from the excellent story. I wonder if I am alone in this thought, and am simply "not getting it." Faulkner is considered to be one of the great American writers of the last century and his books are critically acclaimed, but maybe I prefer the fluffier reads like The Da Vinci Code. Hopefully reading through this list allows me to expand my literary understanding, and through time I will learn to love a book like this, having a greater appreciation for it's brilliance.

You can read Time Magazine's original review from October 17, 1932, here:,9171,744655-1,00.html

Leaving for Canada tomorrow morning, I'm going to read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Hopefully I'm able to finish it on the plane. It's pretty short and I'm familiar with the story, so it shouldn't be a problem.

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