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.
This production is part of our Audible Modern Vanguard line, a collection of important works from groundbreaking authors.
Be sure to check out Faulkner's The Wild Palms as well.
©1959 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)
Despite being familiar with other major Faulkner works, I knew very little about this one. It is certainly a more dramatic, more suspenseful, and more accessible work fhan some of his other major works. I loved it. I think it would have a wider popularity if it were not for the rather rough characters and lives presented in the work, but it is certainly masterful story telling. It may be my favorite Faulkner work at this point. It avoids much of the the observations, asides, and other aspects (which I like - BTW) of many Faulkner works, making it seem more like traditional fiction, somewhat different from most Faulkner. I was left thinking what a great, great writer he was. The reading could not be better.
Tough, heartwrenching and full of quiet fury. Not an easy and pleasant book at all. Patton does a great work and gives life and feeling to Faulkner's deliberate, hard words.
I recommend it if you are in for something strong.
I read this novel in school, many years ago, when the only TV you could get was in black and white. I remember liking Faulkner somewhat but also remember that I sometimes had to struggle to get through it. This schoolboy bias stuck with me and I hesitated to download this novel. To be honest, Will Patton was the determining factor as well as the extra James Lee Burke interview. I'm a strong JLB fan and I believe Patton is Burke's best narrator.
Little did I know what was in store for me. "Light in August" is so relevant today; like any great classic, it speaks to every age. Stories within stories, a vast tapestry of what the world looked like then and it all comes to life thanks to Will Patton's magnificant narration.
"Light in August" is not light reading, but you'll find yourself immersed in a world you won't want to end.
I can't say enough positive things about Will Patton's narration: he creates a full cast of distinct characters, right down to the extremely minor "walk-ons", without one iota of stereotypical Southern Fried Phoniness. I will definitely seek out other titles he has narrated.
This narrational clarity is a real plus, as Faulkner's literary style can be a challenge involving as it does a myriad of forms: stream of consciousness, spiral narratives, direct down-home storytelling, allegory, as well as highly charged and poetic language. That said, this is a deeply humane novel full of the best and worst of human behavior, vivid descriptions of character and setting, as well as moments of deep, sly humor.
The production values are quite good. I've really enjoyed the audible productions I've listened to.
Faulkner isn't for everyone, and it took me several tries to latch onto him, but once I did, years ago now, it was a revelatory experience. Hearing Will Patton read Faulkner and bring voices to those characters is another revelation - I hate having to shut down the ipod and leave the story hanging.
Definitely a classic, characterization is very rich in detail. Narration is superb. I didn't read Faulkner in college or high school, and I'm not sure it could be appreciated by someone in High School. Midway through the book I did some research on Faulkner and on the book which helped considerably. It is amazing to me that this was written in the 1930's, which sheds light on why the author's work wasn't appreciated in his life time--it's not pulp fiction. It is not an easy book to read or listen to. I expected the racial prejudice but was surprised by the "fire and brimstone" religious overtones, and the degree that women were denigrated by many of characters in the book. I will be digesting this for quite awhile.
I'm a 60 yr old former English major and grad student. It's been fascinating revisiting the books I studied in my 20s, read aloud to me.
Like many others, I read this novel and other Faulkner novels as an English major in my teens and early 20's. I'm 58 now and on an impulse clicked on Light in August as one of my monthly credits a couple of weeks ago. As when I heard Moby Dick on Audible a year or two ago, I am amazed and haunted by the writing, the symbolism, and the themes these writers expressed. What geniuses! As a teenager and very young adult, I really just had no clue what I was reading. I remembered these were "hard" novels. Will Patton's narration of Light in August made all the difference. He's an actor and a Southerner born and bred, and his voice and delivery reflect his roots as well as make this one of the most powerful "reading" experiences I've had in a lifetime of reading (and a few years of listening, via Audible, to classics I've been revisiting now in later middle age). The stories in this novel are hard to take; they are violent, cruel, barbarous. As another reviewer said, there's no one to "root for" because all the characters are flawed, to say the least. The racism is extraordinarily cruel and almost unbelievable today, except for the newsreels we've all seen of Mississippi and Alabama during the civil rights era. It's hard to fathom that anyone ever believed that having even a drop of Negro blood (the novel's words) somehow damned you, made you an outcast, even a monster, for life. And in this novel, the "tainted" blood is just a rumor, even to the guy that supposedly is "cursed" with it. But that rumor is enough, and the boy, then the man, never lives a moment in peace. Faulkner's living breathing descriptions of nature, seasons, woods, weather, wind, moonlight, dew in the mornings, the splintered wood of old cabins and old handbuilt furniture are filmlike in intensity. I can readily believe he spent time in Hollywood as a screenwriter, since he naturally writes in dense, filmlike images full of mystery and foreboding. Superb production in every way
I am not an American so, when I had the opportunity to visit the States earlier this year I thought I would read some American Literature. I came upon Faulkner quite by chance, so I bought the book to listen to on the plane. What an absolute joy. I must admit I started it thinking, "I do not like this at all", but, with the skilful weaving of the stories and the intimate, unhurried development of the characters the story and the writing began to grip me.
The story itself is bleak and reminds me of the tone and landscape of the writings of JM Coetzee. However, the characters within the stories are so finely drawn that they become clearly and uniquely defined within the bleakness. They are not bleak, they are tragic and fascinating, they drew me into the story and they seem to have become real people rather than the characters of a novel.
The wider themes of racism, sexism and poverty are so clearly traced that they almost seem like unique characters within the novel. What I think Faulkner does particularly well is to breathe these external cultural and economic elements into his characters so it is clear how embedded they are in their culture. The question I found myself asking was always "if it had been different, what then, how would the inner worlds of the characters and their behaviours been different if their lives had, somehow, been gentler, calmer, less stark?". I think that this is Faulkner's key strength. He insists that his reader asks these questions but leaves no opportunity for a kinder, gentler world for his characters. Poverty, lack of opportunity and narrow minded bigotry always limit choices in this novel, and these conditions are never absent.
On a final note, the narration is superb. Once again, being a non-American, has made accessing the various elements of the book a lot easier.
I feel compelled to write a review (my first!) about this book since I had a much less enjoyable experience than most of the other reviewers so far, and I frankly struggled to complete this book.
This is not due to the narration of Mr. Patton, or the production of the audiobook. Both were outstanding.
Although I was looking forward to my first Faulkner book, and I love southern fiction, about midway through I found myself wishing it would be over so I could move on to my next book.
I think my disinterest was largely due to the fact that it seemed like there were no clear protagonists in this story, or at least very few characters with any likeable and redeeming characteristics. There was nobody to "root" for, and that left me disengaged and uninterested. Combine that with the rehashing the same tiresome themes over and over again, along with the understated and slow writing style and dialogue, and it made finishing the book a chore.
Obviously, I am in the minority. I know this is considered a classic. I just wanted to warn other readers that this might be one of those classics that might require a bit more effort on the reader's part, and you may not enjoy it in the end.
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