Having grown up in the South, the daughter of someone who wrote her masters thesis on Southern fiction, the idea of writing even a 300 word review of William Faulkner’s classic Light in August is intimidating, to say the least. In the South, Faulkner is a rite of passage, someone we all read in high school or college but certainly not since, preferring to celebrate our literary legacy through more contemporary “Southern fiction light”. Faulkner is just tough it’s dense and wrought with meaning classic literature at its finest, but not what you would call a beach read (unless you’re my mom).
And then I listened to Will Patton perform Faulkner’s Light in August.
Faulkner’s stories are written out of chronological order, in layers, in such a way that you might come to know a story over time from hearing it told by many different people in a place. Those who have studied Faulkner say when you get really caught up in one of the author’s page-long sentences, the best thing to do is read it out loud.
It’s even better to listen. With intonation, and the honey smooth cadence of Patton’s voice, the story is suddenly clearer.
Patton introduces us to Lena Grove as she begins her journey to find the father of her unborn child, Lucas Burch. Instead she finds Byron Bunch, who feels a strong pull to take care of her, though it puts him in an awkward social position. For guidance, Byron visits the Rev. Gail Hightower, a man so haunted by not even his own past, but that of his grandfather, that he has trapped himself in his own home.
Even before we encounter Joe Christmas, the 33-year old drifter of ambiguous race, the allusions to the life and death of Jesus are thick. There is a fire and a murder, and it all unravels from there. Patton’s voice carries us through it all, enhancing the story with approachability and authenticity. The Charleston-born Patton’s southern accent is true and real—not a touch of the theatrical, overdone linguistics adopted by some other actors.
In Light in August, Faulkner addresses themes of morality and race, religion and redemption all too deeply to address in these few words. But he does it without preaching or judgment, leaving the reader and in this case the listener to wonder about our own stories, and how they might be told. Sarah Evans Hogeboom
Audible is pleased to present Light in August, by Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner.
An Oprah's Book Club Selection regarded as one of Faulkner's greatest and most accessible novels, Light in August is a timeless and riveting story of determination, tragedy, and hope. In Faulkner's iconic Yoknapatawpha County, race, sex, and religion collide around three memorable characters searching desperately for human connection and their own identities.
Audie Award-winning narrator Will Patton lends his voice to Light in August. Patton has narrated works by Ernest Hemingway, Don DeLillo, Pat Conroy, Denis Johson, Larry McMurtry, and James Lee Burke, and brings to this performance a keen understanding of Faulkner, an authentic feel for the South, and a virtuoso narrator's touch.
As an added bonus, when you purchase our Audible Modern Vanguard production of Light in August, you'll get exclusive bonus audio added to your library - an interview with James Lee Burke about William Faulkner, conducted by James Atlas.
Be sure to check out Faulkner's The Wild Palms as well.
This production is part of our Audible Modern Vanguard line, a collection of important works from groundbreaking authors.
©1954, 1976 William Faulkner (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
"For all his concern with the South, Faulkner was actually seeking out the nature of man. Thus we must turn to him for that continuity of moral purpose which made for the greatness of our classics." (Ralph Ellison)
Not even Will Patton's mesmerizing voice could save this slow, bleak story. I can't finish it.
Something with a plot.
Everything. I could listen to him read a pizza menu.
The scenes between the first page and the last page.
Just because a book is a classic doesn't make it good to read.
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
It's hard to describe just what the structure of this book is. Characters we think are central disappear for long stretches. Characters we think are peripheral come to have major roles. The central plot line appears to lead nowhere. I am left with the sense that the real plot lies outside of what is reported in the book, and can only be inferred from the general shapes outlined therein. Faulkner is probably the most successful experimental writer of the 20th century. One of the few where we feel the experimental elements serve the function of the story instead of the other way around. In this book, it is the fragmented way of telling the story, and the sense of an overarching purpose that cannot be directly stated. Nowadays, the fragmented chronology has become so common that we may not appreciate how revolutionary Faulkner's work really was. One thing Faulkner is always good at is at expressing the ambiguity in a character's words or actions. Rather than simply say what a gesture means, he will leave you with a multitude of interpretations just as you are left in real life wondering what a gesture truly meant. Just as our own gestures mean more than can be neatly summed up in a tidy soundbite explanation.
It's not giving anything away to say that there are numerous allusions to the nativity story in this book, though it can be easy to forget as the story twists away in different directions. It's a very dark twisted version of the nativity story all the same. I think the underlying meaning of the book lies somewhere in the contemplation of its elements as they relate to that archetypal story.
Will Patton does a terrific job of keeping all the characters straight and of evoking the period and the people.
Yes, I would recommend. I loved the visual created by the words. I very much enjoyed the language and dialect of the writing and performance. The story was a about a simple place and time.
A young pregnant girl and her journey. Christmas and his story.
Newly retired, I am a reading fiend! I like many types of books, both fiction and non-fiction, with the exception of romance and fantasy
I listened until 3 hours from the end and just could not stand a moment more. I found Faulkner's story depressing, unpleasant and mostly unbelievable. The timeline jumping happened without warning, and at one point, I thought I had started another book. The biblical, racial, and sexual bigotry, along with "preacherliness" of both the story and the narration, totally turned me off--so did Faulkner's creative word-play.
Apparently, I am not sophisticated enough to enjoy or appreciate this classical writer. Luckily, I have found others whom I really do enjoy.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
To this reviewer, Faulkner, like Mark Twain, is an acquired taste. “Light in August” is considered by Modern Library, in their 1998 list, to be one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century; “Time” magazine suggests the same thing in 1923 and 2005.
“Abasalom, Abasalom” is William Faulkner’s vision of the South. It is an interesting book but it gnaws at one’s sense of completeness, both in the society being described and the fate of its characters. Faulkner describes early 20th century prejudice with characters that are largely unforgivable and unlikable. All women are characterized as dissemblers, and sex objects that lure men to sin as though men have no will of their own. Religion is exclusively seen as punitive and destructive. Faulkner pictures southern life as dark with only slivers of light; maybe slivers of light in August but only one month in twelve leaves his characters mostly mired in violence, sin, and despair.
Faulkner draws attention to American societal failures in the same way his contemporary Richard Wright does in “Native Son”. However, Faulkner paints on a wider canvas; i.e. exploring the dark side of religious zealotry which has no north/south or east/west boundary. The irony of Faulkner’s wider vision is its narrow focus. Both “Light in August” and “Native Son” are difficult to read because of the brutality of their main characters but Faulkner, though more lyrical and broadly visionary, is ironically one-dimensional and less complete than Wright.
I would not be interested in reading another Faulkner book however I thought Will Patton did good job of narrating.
The overly descriptive nature of Faulkner's work is lost on me. I find myself daydreaming or getting lost on what he was describing or talking about. I really hated reading this book but I kept reading in hopes that it would have some redeeming ending. Not.
The vocabulary of the author. I understood the intent of each sentence, but marvelled at the literary level of the written word. Not something you would here in everyday life now.
The depth of the characters and how they converged in life
The pace, the vocal manipulation and tonal flexibility in converying each character
pass on that one
Very insightful of human value and perspective from this era.
I love books!
I read William Faulkner or at least tried to read him in my 20's. I never really thought much about him after that until audible offered up this book as part of its Audible Modern Vanguard classic selections. The plot seemed interesting and I liked that it was narrated by actor Will Patton, who also narrates the James Lee Burke novels I enjoy, and since he's from the south where this book takes place, he had the southern accents down to a T.
This is a thought provoking book that touches on several different topics. Since it's set in Mississippi in the 1930's, it is a timepiece novel looking at that era, post Civil War but where racism still existed even all those years later. But it also touches on the hopes and dreams of people who are just trying to get by in life. It touches on the effects our parents and even out grandparents have on our lives. Did we lead the lives our parents wanted us to or did we stay true to ourselves and lead the lives we wanted to? Was it possible to do both? How did our grandparents effect the lives of their children and how then did that get passed down onto us? Many of us rebel and strike off on our own but as we get older we sometimes think that we are leading the life we were supposed to and now we've gone full circle.
Faulkner touches on all these issues in this book. Yes, it's a novel of the deep south in the 1930's but it is also universally timeless. I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would when starting out. Read it slow and think about it, as i said, it's thought provoking.
I am a 65-year-old psychologist, married for 25 years, with two sons who are 25 and 22. I love reviewing the books and the feedback I get.
Not to personalize here, but I went to Vanderbilt, majored in English Lit, and read a number of Southern authors. Nonetheless, to say that this book is slow is an understatement. Molasses is quick by comparison. You need to be really into style in order to appreciate Faulkner, and frankly, I got over that in the late sixties. There may be a plot here, but I couldn't find it. I do really like the sound of Will Patton's voice, and have enjoyed a number of books that he has read. But, not this one.
Tangential, eclectic, avid listener... favorite book is the one currently in ear.
If you miss a few seconds, you will have transitioned in time and point of view and be lost. His writing is beautiful, difficult topics placed in a cruel world... if I was to read again, would do in book form. Performance was great, the story thought provoking but it didn't work for me as an audio book.
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