Light in August by William Faulkner

Light in August (The Corrected Text) - William Faulkner

'He just stared at her, at the face which he had never seen before, saying quietly (whether aloud our not, he could not have said) in a slow amazement: Why, I committed murder for her. I even stole for her as if he had just heard of it, thought of it, been told that he had done it.'

 

Light in August by William Faulkner is quite simply a superlative piece of fiction, it surpasses pretty much anything else I've read in 30 years. If you want to read an author who literally dances with words in a style that sometimes beggars belief then go no further. This is the man. Every word slips into your mind, hijacks your conscious thought, rattles around and leaves you awestruck at what you've just read. Simple things such as feeling and thought become pressing, alluring, completely captivating as if his words are magnetic and your memory a receptacle cast with veins of steel.

 

'The father sat, gaunt, grizzled, and austere, beneath the lamp. He had been listening, but his expression was brooding, with a kind of violently slumbering contemplativeness and bewildered outrage.'

 

The story centre's on two strangers who arrive in Faulkners fictional town, come home, Jefferson in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi at different times and affecting the town in vastly differing ways. The plot first focuses on Lena Grove, a young pregnant white woman from Alabama who comes in search of the Father and the promise of marriage. At the same time a fire brings the crime of murder and two obvious suspects into the public eye.

 

The second story thread is the life of Joe Christmas from a young orphan to a whisky bootlegger, living on the property where fire and death bring grave attention, and the second suspect Lucas Burch the man that Lena searches for. We follow Christmas, his impending doom as clear as crystal, deracinated, alone and searching for identity, for a home. A complex and tragic tale, full of outcasts, misfits and those forever searching, no clear path in site, only hardship and endurance.

 

'Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.'

 

This was my first read/listen from William Faulkner and narrated in a powerfully stunning performance by Will Patton, to be fair he had a hell of a lot to work with, definitely a classic and now a firm favourite. Honestly there's a memorable quote on every single page, that's what it felt like anyway. If I ever had the thought to write (luckily I don’t) then I think I’d read everything this guy had written in his life and pray that some of it rubbed off on me. I've since got another dozen of his stories and I'll be slowly devouring them with an all-consuming enjoyment.

 

'So they looked at the fire, with the same dull and static amaze which they had bought down from the old fetid caves where knowing began, as though, like death, they had never seen fire before.'