eric's elysian fieldsLITERATURE

...the wickedness of otherworldly wonderment...


"Like every writer, he measured the virtues of other writers by their performance, and asked that they measure him by what he conjectured or planned."
-- Jorge Luis Borges (at right) in "The Secret Miracle"

That sums up my dalliance with words. At one time, pop fiction was satisfying enough for me, and by that I mean the Grishams and Clancys out there. But serendipitously one day I picked up Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner and everything changed. No matter what one studies in school, sometimes it takes inspiration beyond what one's professors might instill to spark a passion. For me, it was in reading Absalom, Absalom!, one of the best novels this century and perhaps of all time. It's a novel that, though brooding and as much ponderous as tedious, brought forth the real power of words to me personally. As literary critic Cleanth Brooks said in his book on Faulkner's oeuvre, "The Yoknapatawpha County": "There are actually few instances in modern fiction of a more perfect adaptation of form to matter and of an intricacy that justifies itself at every point through the significance and intensity which makes it possible."

"Or perhaps that's it.: they don't explain and we are not supposed to know. We have a few old mouth-to-mouth tales; we exhume from old trunks and boxes and drawers letters without salutation or signature, in which men and women who once lived and breathed are now merely initials or nicknames out of some now incomprehensible affection which sound to us like Sanskrit or Chocktaw; we see dimly the people, the people in whose living blood and seed we ourselves lay dormant and waiting, in this shadowy attenuation of time possessing now heroic proportions, perforing their acts of simple passion and simple violence, impervious to time and inexplicable...They are there, yet something is missing; they are like a chemical formula exhumed along with the letters from that forgotten chest, carefully, the paper old and faded and falling to pieces, the writing faded, almost indecipherable, yet meaningful, familiar in shape and sense, the name and presence of volatile and sentient forces, you bring them together in the proportions called for, but nothing happens; you re-read, tedious and intent, poring, making sure that you have forgotten nothing, made no miscalculation; you bring them together again and again and nothing happens: just the words, the symbols, the shapes themselves, shadowy inscrutable and serene, against the turgid background of a horrible and bloody mischancing of human affairs."
-- from "Absalom, Absalom!" (image from the cover)

One great Web compendium of Faulkner facts, trivia and information is the site hosted by the University of Mississippi, which hosts each summer a Faulkner conference.


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