Light in August
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Light in August
William Faulkner
Literature
Aug 11, 2018
Two strangers come to town; only one will leave alive. Lena Grove is a pregnant, unmarried young woman looking for the father of her child; Joe Christmas, who arrived three years earlier, is a drifter whose orphanhood haunts his every relation and whose appetites are mired in flesh and blood. The pair heads a dramatis personae that reads like the character checklist handed out on the first day of a Southern Gothic writing course. All are caught in the violence of a present so remote from any alternative future that their inner lives have no direction. Their identities are in thrall to poverty, racism, ignorance, and intolerance, and the sociopathy all four engender when there is no way to escape their grip. If the present is violent, the past is oppressive, exerting its force by a strange sort of osmosis. Fevers of the blood course invisibly and unabated until they break in fear, sex, rage, murder, castration—one might even say that the catalog of stock plot points matches the character list in brutal predictability. Yet even though all these familiar pieces are laid out on the page, they are put together in a way so inventive and unexpected that melodrama is turned into something not only meaningful, but almost majestic, transcending its material to create an imaginative space more like a film than a conventional novel.
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