banned books, censorship, Saturday Uncensored, William Faulkner

Saturday’s Uncensored – William Faulkner

“We do not fear censorship for we have no wish to offend with improprieties or obscenities, but we do demand, as a right, the liberty to show the dark side of wrong, that we may illuminate the bright side of virtue.” – D.W. Griffith

Welcome to to another installment of Saturdays, Uncensored! the only weekly meme hosted here at RBR.net.  The purpose of this weekly feature is to bring continued scrutiny and awareness to the on-going, destructive practice of censorship and banning books.

Also important to mention this week are two major events coming soon to Roof Beam Reader.  The first is a Literary Giveaway Hop, hosted over at Leeswamme’s Blog.  I believe there is still time to sign-up, if you would like to host a Giveaway on your own blog. The only caveat is that the Giveaway must be “literary” in nature (so nothing strictly YA, sub-genre fiction, paranormal romance, etc.).  I will be hosting a powerhouse giveaway here at RBR.net, with a few different “themed” prize packs, so definitely mark your calendars for February 19th!

The second event is a guest post by Laura Kreitzer, author of Phantom Universe.  She will be here to talk about her book and the darkly terrifying realities which inspired it.  The book comes out on February 15th, and Laura’s guest post will be available here at RBR.net on release date. Definitely stop by on Feb. 15th to read her very powerful and enlightening post, and interact with me and the author about it all.

Okay! Now that all of the little details about this month’s activities are out of the way, it is on to the good stuff!  This week, in Saturdays, Uncensored!, we take a look at a work by one of America’s greatest writers, William Faulkner.

William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying is an exploration of family, society, and mortality.  The Bundren family, led by their bumbling but ultimately calculating father, travels by horse and buggy from their small farm into the city of Jefferson, Alabama to bury their dead mother.  The trip takes days, due to weather and various calamities, and what the reader learns about each character, and the characters about one another, ends up being the redeeming trait for a would-be-simple trip gone wildly awry.

All-in-all, I found this to be one of Faulkner’s more accessible novels.  For literature lovers who are interested in reading Faulkner but who have been dissuaded by reviews/descriptions of his more ambitious works or who have perhaps started those novels and given up, this might be a substantive, meaningful compromise.  While I did find some fault with the novel, particularly in the lack of “meaty” scenes and character interaction, I was still generally happy with characterization itself, as well as the story and it’s ironic, darkly humorous ending.  The last few lines of the novel, when Mr. Bundren’s ultimate purpose and decision are revealed to his family and the reader, reminded of a Vonnegut-type wit and total exasperation for humankind.  This, of course, was right up my alley, and it made a “good” read, for me, pretty great in the end.

According to the American Library Association, As I Lay Dying was banned or challenged at least four times between 1986 and 1994. The most common reasons for these challenges were that the book “questioned the existence of God” or had “obscene passages.”  The “obscene” passages most at issue were mainly two: one which dealt with a character contemplating abortion, and the other a passage about masturbation.Now, I don’t know what high school was like in the 1980s and 1990s, but from what I remember of it- masturbation was was talked about constantly, at least by the male portion of the student body, so wouldn’t the presence of it in a classic, heralded text do something to, I don’t know, validate the human condition? I’m also disturbed that this book would be challenged over its inclusion of abortion, because the way that this particular book dealt with that issue is one of the most honest and moving examples I can recall.  It paid great attention to the “thought process” and physical/emotional strain on the mother. As for the primary complaint, that the book “questions the existence of God” and “uses God’s name in vain,” come on. Really?  I mean, I can understand that there are still some wing nuts out there who would not want to read a book for these reasons, but that a public school district actually banned the book for it?  I am flabbergasted by this, and it leaves me wondering why the few nutters who shout the loudest are continuously allowed to be the ones making decisions for all the more moderate, sensible parents.  Where are the reasonable arguments – and why aren’t they resonating just as loudly down the school hallways?

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Book Review, Fiction, William Faulkner

Review: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Summary:
William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying is an exploration of family, society, and mortality.  The Bundren family, led by their bumbling but ultimately calculating father, travels by horse and buggy from their small farm into the city of Jefferson, Alabama to bury their dead mother.  The trip takes days, due to weather and various calamities, and what the reader learns about each character, and the characters about one another, ends up being the redeeming trait for a would-be-simple trip gone wildly awry.

The Good:
The first item which stands out for me in this novel is the fact that each small “chapter” (never more than a few pages, really) is told from the point of view of a different character – either a family member or one of the few outsiders they encounter along the way.  Faulkner does a masterful job of characterizing in such a way as to demonstrate to the reader, without necessarily having to title the portions by character name, who is speaking when.  The youngest boy’s youth and/or mental retardation, for instance, stand out plainly from the father’s slow but more reasonable, confident language.  The middle boy’s anger and instability is expressed in the prose of his portions, as is Dewey Dell’s fear and concern for her special circumstance.

I also very much preferred this more coherent prose to some of Faulkner’s signature, disjointed, out-of-sequence pieces.  Faulkner still manages to be creative without sacrificing the story which, I find, sometimes happens when so much energy is given to manipulating time and space through prose and form.

The Bad:
Certain events, major events, happen with such minimal and brief description that it is almost as if they hardly matter at all; this is, of course, not the case, as certain events are turning points in the characters’ lives.  I imagine the novel playing out as scenes of  a  movie and, while some scenes (like the attempts at crossing the river) are very well designed, others – like the fire – are completely lacking in significance and impact.  I was also confused by the story in relation to the title, as the “dying” happened rather early in the story, whereas the journey to the grave site is what took up most of the time.  “Journey to A Final Rest” or something similar may have made more sense, though this is not exactly a major concern so much as it is an observation (pointed out to those who might imagine, after reading a title like As I Lay Dying, that the reader would be narrated to by a dying person, and learning about that person’s path toward acceptance and release (denial, anger, etc.).  The dying character, Mrs.  Bundren, is hardly a character while in the living, and one comes to understand that the dying may be a metaphor for the end to one family’s way of life.

The Final Verdict: 4.0 out of 5.0
All-in-all, I found this to be one of Faulkner’s more accessible novels.  For literature lovers who are interested in reading Faulkner but who have been dissuaded by reviews/descriptions of his more ambitious works or who have perhaps started those novels and given up, this might be a substantive, meaningful compromise.  While I did find some fault with the novel, particularly in the lack of “meaty” scenes and character interaction, I was still generally happy with characterization itself, as well as the story and it’s ironic, darkly humorous ending.  The last few lines of the novel, when Mr. Bundren’s ultimate purpose and decision are revealed to his family and the reader, I was almost reminded of a Vonnegut-esque wit and total exasperation for humankind.  This, of course, was right up my alley, and it made a “good” read, for me, pretty great in the end.

Published by Random House, 1957
ISBN: Unknown
Challenges: N/A
YTD: 29
Source: Owned Copy
Rating: 4.0/5.0

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Creative Non-Fiction, David Sedaris, Gertrude Stein, Laura Esquival, Magical Realism, Orson Scott Card, Philosophy, Postmodernism, Robert Coover, Science-Fiction, Voltaire, William Faulkner

Reviews: The Earlies, Part 10

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

Very beautiful… very difficult.

Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card

Unbelievably good sci-book. Probably the best ever.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

One of the funniest books ever. I actually ‘laughed out loud.’

Paris France by Gertrude Stein

Wonderfully playful with words and style.

Candide by Voltaire

Hilarious.

Briar Rose by Robert Coover

Stunningly creative and playfully postmodern. An examination of itself.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquival

Very pretty. Great use of magical realism.

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Book Review, Christopher Marlowe, Classics, Drama, Fiction, Henry Miller, Literature, Mark Twain, Sherwood Anderson, William Faulkner

Review: The Earlies Part 1

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe

Liked it a lot. Didactic, of course – but not as incredible as I has assumed it would be. Then again, put into historical context, maybe it is (was) quite amazing.

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

Where has this novel gone? It’s quite incredible – and nobody has ever heard of it! Anderson weaves a series of short stories from the same small town together, discussing the deconstruction of provincial, farm life and the advent of “the city.” The bottom line – nobody knows that EVERYbody is different.

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Pretty amazing, especially coming out of the early 20th Century. Hilarious in his obsession with ‘the C word’ and sex and all the dirty diseases that come with it. Also, funny to watch Miller denounce the practice of putting so much importance on the literary geniuses like Goethe, Emerson, Tennyson, etc – but then watch as he quotes them left and right within his own prose. It’s a wonderful experiment with language and stream of consciousness, though. Definitely worth being named a classic, even if a bit bizarre.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

You know, everyone calls this a “boy’s” book – generally speaking, people think the book is for children. I read it when I was a kid, and I didn’t like it. I re-read it a couple years ago and liked it better. Finally, I read it again recently and fell in love with it. The reason? It is not a kid’s book. It’s a very adult book, with themes that were way over my head as a ten, twelve, and even fifteen year old reader. Tom Sawyer, maybe, can be called a boy’s book, but Huckleberry Finn truly is the great American novel. Amazing.

Light in August by William Faulkner

Faulkner is certainly a powerful force and innovator in American literature. I have to say, I was wary of touching his works after my first experience, with The Sound and the Fury. However, Light in August was much easier to follow while remaining just as interesting and even dangerous. They last chapters were a bit of a letdown, they seemed out of place and unnecessary, but this novel as a whole made me re-think my position on Faulkner and …heck, I may even try another of his novels. In a few years.

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