Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Of too little reading and drunk men on horses

A fair approximation of my TBR pile 
My TBR pile has reached truly obscene proportions. I suspect I read less fiction this year than any other year of my life: I was way too distracted with the jaw-dropping politics, the death of my favourite aunt who finally succumbed to cancer, moving house (again!), etc. etc. etc. I picked up novel after novel, only to put it down again and return to more fascinating (read 'horrifying') fare.

My disinclination to read fiction began to scare me, so I forced myself to pick up some classic fiction. I re-read Wuthering Heights and realized that Heathcliff, who had impressed me as such a romantic hero when I read some version of the story as a child, was actually a monster. I re-read Jane Eyre after watching the Wide Sargasso Sea film, again having read it when I was very young, and realized that Mr. Rochester, whom I had disliked intensely as a young girl, was actually a very sympathetic figure.

I ventured into the realm of vampire romance with Eugenia O'Neal's Beach Vamp, and was astounded to discover that I could find a vampire character sympathetic. (I should not have been surprised; I absolutely loved William Dafoe's vampire character in Shadow of the Vampire, as well as the classic film on which it is based, Nosferatu.)

The novel that made the greatest impression on me was Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner, first published in 1936. I love Faulkner. Anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the background to the problems with race relations that beset the US would find his work riveting. While The Sound and the Fury was tough going at times, Absalom was not just very readable, but a great page-turner. I could not put it down. I don't think any other novelist captures the ethos of the decaying American South quite as well as Faulkner. I imagine he was not much beloved of his fellowmen from the southland.

The title of the novel is significant. In the Bible, Absalom was the third son of David. He was charming and handsome, and lived in great style. Absalom's sister was raped by Amnon, who was their half-brother. Amnon was also David's eldest son. Faulkner's novel, while an allegory of the history of the American South, mirrors in many ways the narrative arc of the Bible story.

NOT William Faulkner!
When I was a literature undergrad, one of my lecturers told the class this anecdote. Her father was a student at the U of Virginia when Faulkner was writer-in-residence there. He vividly remembers Faulkner riding his horse across the campus on evenings, drunk as a lord. I was thrilled that someone I knew knew someone who had actually seen Faulkner in the flesh--even if Faulkner had been all but passed-out at the time!

I've disappointed myself enough in the past that I stopped making a list of New Year's resolutions many years ago. But I do intend to return to my lifelong bookworm habits. Here's hoping that 2018 is a happy and productive year for all of us. Happy reading, and happy writing!

~Liane Spicer


Charles Gramlich said...

oh, wow, that Faulkner story. Very cool

Liane Spicer said...

Charles, yes! I love it!

Amy Reade said...

I think I'll pick up a copy of Absalom, Absalom! at the library. I hope 2018 is better for you than 2017!

Liane Spicer said...

Hoping the same for you and yours in 2018, Amy!

Linda Thorne said...

I have way too many TBR books too and I'm getting slower at getting to them. Same thing here regarding News Years resolutions. I make "general" ones as they are more likely to happen that way.
Hope you have an outstanding 2018! Hope we all do.

Liane Spicer said...

Thank you, Linda! Wishing the same to you and the hubby!

KeVin K. said...

My TBR pile can't take another book. Except Absalom Absalom - I remember disliking Sound and the Fury and both liking and admiring Go Down, Moses, both read four decades ago and remembered. So I think I'm ready to tackle Absalom, Absalom.

My own 2017 was tumultuous, and I read nothing that wasn't political or research for my historical novel. A writer of fiction must read fiction - the classics and the new - to keep their own mind sharp to possibilities and techniques in storytelling.

Reading more in 2018 is a resolution I think I'll be able to keep.

(That's Lee Marvin portraying William Faulkner, by the way. Actually, he was playing Kid Sheleen, a “retired” gunslinger, in Cat Ballou - a mid-60s comedy western.)

Hope your 2018 is satisfying, productive, and full of things that make you happy.

Liane Spicer said...

Kevin, I think you'll find Absalom worth the effort. I loved The Sound and the Fury (in a horrified kind of way) but admit that if I'd just picked it off the shelf and tried to read it instead of reading it while simultaneously analyzing it under the guidance of a brilliant professor--the same one who shared the anecdote about Faulkner--I would probably not have gotten beyond the first chapter.

2017 was one for the books. I'm surprised that anyone got anything done at all, tbh.

I saw Cat Ballou decades ago. No wonder that Lee Marvin image looked so familiar!

Thank you for the good wishes, K, and wishing the same for you and the family.

Mollie Blake said...

What a lovely post - I always adored Mr. Rochester and never liked Heathcliff btw :)
And I have just added Shadow of the Vampire to my TBR list. Thanks Liane, and thanks for letting me be a part of this group. I have struggled the last three months with the joy and pain (literally with hands bitten to shreds and sore from being in and out of water (!)), and the depression of not being able to write. I am determined to return to my passion this January and it is as though Pepper, our Newfie puppy, has read my mind. She is clean in the house, a lot less bity and a delight to live with. I feel I can now have longer periods of time to concentrate on writing in between her needs. Oh and those of my son whose moved down the rankings somewhat. Happy new year x

Liane Spicer said...

Thank you, Molly. :) It's been a rough year in many ways but we're determined 2018 is going to be better. Your puppy is beautiful! Just saw some pics in my news feed. (Is Facebook psychic or what?) LOL re the comment on your son. He'll be fine. We're happy you've joined the NS group. Happy New Year!!! ūüéČ