William Faulkner: a titan of American literature. You probably already know all about his life and work, right? No? Don’t sweat it! In five minutes, we’ll bring you up to speed on this national treasure. First we’ll fill you in on a few key facts about his career, and then we’ll hit five important aspects of his writing that are guaranteed to impress friends, family, and potential dates.
Faulkner in 5 Minutes! was written by a humble group of Faulkner fans from the Audible staff. We hope you enjoy this short piece and that it helps you get a little more out of Faulkner.
©2010 Audible, Inc. (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
Audio books are growing. I have listened to books for months now, But I prefer my books in paperback/hardback format.
This narrative of Faulkner was interesting to listen to. It was a good 5 minute listen. Its not quite what I expected. Its sort of hard trying to grasp all of the literature the narrative was staying but in the end it was worth it.
Faulkner can be a bit daunting to students, but this excellent overview appeals on so many levels. It provides wonderful clues to literary elements in all Faulkner's work and makes it accessible to first time readers. Attention span in the classroom is always a challenge, even for the most entertaining teacher, but I have great results including audio. Student response is always favorable because it is short, action packed, and informative. I love using various forms of audio in the classroom.
Retired teacher. Hometown: Eden, NY.
Yes, it’s true! The Nobel Prize laureate can be approached in confidence via a five-point formulary. This is possible because of Audible’s publication in 2010 of “Faulkner in Five Minutes,” released in conjunction with a new version of LIGHT IN AUGUST. A clever staff coterie of Audible’s Faulkner scholars produced five essential steps to a better understanding his writing. Considered by many to be “difficult” and even “inaccessible,” Faulkner’s genius can now be appreciated without the usual self-effacing conclusion that the reader is simply incapable of reaching such rich heights.
Audible’s quintessential elements are as follows: (1) complexity, (2) internal monologue, (3) innovation, (4) allegory, and (5) the South.
I submit that these steps apply to all of Faulkner’s novels, and will use AS I LAY DYING to illustrate my point.
1. Complexity [the condition of having many parts]. Often Faulkner’s stories use multiple narratives, each with its own interests and biases, which allows us to piece together the “true” circumstances of the story. The rather simple account is narrated from the point of view of fifteen characters, and frequenly jumps from incomplete thoughts of characters only to be resumed in later chapters. Addie Bundren dies and her dirt-poor Mississippi family honors her wish to be buried not on their land but in nearby Jefferson. Although each chapter is narrated by a member or friend of the family - and the outward journey in a mule-driven wagon fraught with trials - ,even these are always secondary to the interior, often confusing, and usually dark revelations of the characters.
2. Internal monologue [also known as inner voice, internal speech, or stream of consciousness wherein the author shows non-linear thinking processes]. A very brief but powerful example occurs in chapter 19, the entire section consisting of no more than young Vardaman’s inner thoughts: “My mother is a fish.” When Addie dies, the boy instinctively focus on his family eating a fish he caught that was chopped up and cooked for the family.
Dewey Dell, the daughter, when she is with Doc Peabody, internally speaks: “He could do so much for me if he just would. He could do everything for me. It’s like everything in the world for me is inside a tub full of guts, so that you wonder how there can be any room in it for anything else very important. He is a big tub of guts and I am a little tub of guts, how can it be room in a little tub of guts. But I know it is there because God gave women a sign when something has happened bad.”
3. Innovation [something new, better, or different]. Faulkner often told his stories using multiple narratives, each with its own complexities, which allow us to piece together the “true” circumstances of the story, not as clues in a mystery, but as different melodies in a piece of music that develops to a crescendo. The effect is like a key to understanding what surrounds the central event in a way that traditional linear narratives are unable to accomplish.
The reader is jolted when even Addie, who dies early in the novel, “internalizes” from her coffin: “My father said that the reason for living is getting ready to stay dead. I knew at last what he meant and that he could not have known what he meant himself, because a man cannot know anything about cleaning up the house afterward. And so I have cleaned up my house. With Jewel – I lay by the lamp, holding up my own head, watching him cap and suture it before he breathed – the wild blood boiled away and the sound of it ceased. Then there was only the milk, warm and calm, and I lying calm in the slow silence, getting ready to clean my house.”
4. Allegory [a symbolic expression of meaning in a story]. One of Christianity’s symbols is the Jesus fish (ichthys) . We recall that when Addie dies, Vardaman associates her with his fish, which he has just killed and cleaned. When Vardaman focuses on his family eating the fish, we cannot help but think of Jesus and the Last Supper when He has his disciples eat his flesh and drink his blood.
And during the disastrous river crossing it is not difficult to associate Addie’s coffin heaving up out of the water as a possible symbol of resurrection.
5. The South [geological, ecological, sociological – the background against which everything in Faulkner’s canon occurs]. Most of his novels are set in Yoknapatawpha County, an imaginary area in Mississippi with a colorful history and richly varied population. The county is a microcosm of the South as a whole, and Faulkner’s novels examine the effects of the dissolution of traditional values and authority on all levels of Southern society.
One of the primary themes is the abuse of blacks by the Southern whites. Because Faulkner’s novels treat the decay and anguish of the South since the Civil War, they abound in violent and sordid events. Chapter 52, in which the family approaches the town of Jefferson, exemplifies the brooding presence of the South in a state of violent transition. The Bundren clan encounters three black men and a white overseer walking beside the road. A verbal (and obviously racial) conflict erupts between them and the Bundrens, and turns deadly dangerous as a knife is suddenly drawn. Only through the efforts of Dewey Dell and Darl is bloodshed avoided.
I enjoyed working on this review and applying Audible's 5 Minute formula to re-vist AS I LAY DYING. In closing, I salute the Audible group that has contributed an important resource to those seeking admission to the Faulknerian banquet. Their work is appreciated, and this reviewer for one certainly hopes the brevity of such a significant contribution does not relegate it to oblivion.
Worth listening to if you have no familiarity with Faulkner. Outlines a few common themes in his writing. Might as well listen to it if it accompanies the book.
The rather simple account is narrated from the point of view of fifteen characters, and frequenly jumps from incomplete thoughts of characters only to be resumed in later chapters. Addie Bundren dies and her dirt-poor Mississippi family honors her wish to be buried not on their land but in nearby Jefferson. Although each chapter is narrated by a member or friend of the family - and the outward journey in a mule-driven wagon fraught with trials - ,even these are always secondary to the interior, often confusing, and usually dark revelations of the characters.
I cut and pasted this review because it is an excellent review of Faulkners story. It was an excellent and fine piece of work, nicely weaved into an entertaining audio.
Yes ... he is Very Engaging.
Just some of the character voices were not quite right, but still did a good job and I enjoyed listening to him very much.
Historical & SciFi Book Lover, especially Georgette Heyer, Lois McMaster Bujold, Connie Willis (& New Who). Also books for the kids.
A clear summary of a very prolific author. I searched in vain for more of these author intros - and would urge the Audible Staff to do some more.
I prefer detailed literary criticism and have no patience for the type of humor in this brief audio.
Get to know five elements of Faulkner's legacy in just 5 min, it will not only give you elements to sound smart in conversation but also understand and enjoy a little better his work.
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