The History of Literature #242 – William Faulkner | Dry September

The fourth part of a three-part episode run! Jacke takes the advice of a listener and adds William Faulkner’s “Dry September” (1931) to the Baldwin-Faulkner consideration. NOTE FOR LISTENERS: This story (and our discussion of it) contains disturbing references to sexual violence, racial slurs, and race-based hate crimes. Please exercise discretion in listening or playing for others.

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

The History of Literature #231 – James Baldwin | Going to Meet the Man

James Baldwin (1924-1987) was a fearless artist, an uncompromising critic, a brilliant essayist, and an American who lived within his time and yet was decades ahead of it. In this episode, Jacke takes a look at Going To Meet the Man,” Baldwin’s provocative story of the power dynamics at play within a white Southern man who attends a lynching. (Warning: This story of racism, violence, and sexual activity is graphic and brutal. Listeners may want to exercise caution.)

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

The History of Literature #230 – William Faulkner – A Rose for Emily

William Faulkner (1897-1962) is one of the most celebrated and divisive figures in American literature. Widely recognized as one of the greatest novelists America has produced, his fiction and his life have become the stuff of legend. In this episode of The History of Literature, Jacke talks through our understanding of Faulkner and what he means to us today. Are these the revelations of a Southern prophet? Or “corncobby chronicles” (as Nabokov put it)? And how do we assess a writer whose undeniable storytelling power was accompanied by personal views that shock us today? Can we see those moral blindspots when we look at his fiction? What truths do we find in his works – and are they the truths he wanted us to see? And finally, Jacke and Mike take a deeper look at Faulkner’s masterpiece, “A Rose for Emily.”

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“DarxieLand” and “Greta Sting” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

The History of Literature #229 – Baldwin v Faulkner

In the 1950s, William Faulkner (1897-1962) was one of most celebrated novelists in America, highly praised for this formal innovation, his prodigious storytelling gifts, and his sweeping, multigenerational portrait of Southern society.

James Baldwin (1924-1987) was a writer on the rise, youthful and energetic, fearless and incisive, known for essays and commentary as brilliant as his fiction.

In this episode of The History of Literature, we take a look at the public debate surrounding the civil rights movement, which Faulkner addressed in a (purportedly) drunken interview in which he said, “If I have to choose between the United States Government and Mississippi then I’ll choose Mississippi. If it came to fighting I’d fight for Mississippi against the United States, even if it meant going out into the street and shooting Negros.” At calmer points, Faulkner freely acknowledged that desegregation was the correct view “morally, legally, and ethically” but was not, in his view, “practical.”

In 1956, writing in the pages of the Partisan Review, Baldwin responded to these and other Faulkner statements with a brief, dazzling essay “Faulkner and Desegregation,” in which he analyzed Faulkner’s position on race, linked Faulkner’s publicly expressed views to the inner world of the Southerner of the 1950s, and – it became clear a few months later – set the stage for his own efforts to inhabit and portray the mindset of a white Southerner in his fiction.

How does the fiction of these two men work? What did it say about race and power and the precarious balance of a time, a place, and an era? What does understanding this mean for us today? We’ll explore those questions in our next two episodes, where we look at a pair of short stories, Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” and Baldwin’s “Going to Meet the Man.”

Help support the show at patreon.com/literature or historyofliterature.com/shop. (We appreciate it!) Find out more at historyofliterature.com, jackewilson.com, or by following Jacke and Mike on Twitter at @thejackewilson and @literatureSC. Or send an email to jackewilsonauthor@gmail.com.

Music Credits:

“Darxieland” and “Allemande Sting” by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

News from Lake Flyover

A technological accident added some unexpected profundity to Ian Stansel’s heartfelt piece “Finding the Essential in the Literary Midwest.”  Here’s how the piece ended, at least when I read it (only the first paragraph was intentional):

So to you folks flying over, I say this: go ahead. Go on to Colorado or New Mexico or California. Go on to Brooklyn and Portland and Austin. Go on to your more glamorous regions, to your fashionable residents and well-spiced food and detectable topography. We’ll be here in the heartland, gnawing on an ear of corn and quietly, patiently making literature.

 

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Goosebumps. Hard to imagine a better coda.

One question I had. Stansel writes:

Of course the Midwest is more diverse than it gets credit for, and likewise Midwestern literature encompasses a wide array of authors and styles. Look at the moral novels of Theodore Dreiser. Or the intimate psychology of Sherwood Anderson. Look at the gritty worlds of contemporary authors Donald Ray Pollock, Bonnie Jo Campbell, and Daniel Woodrell. Hell, look at the sentimental nostalgia of Robert James Waller. There is no one writer we can point to and say, “This is Midwestern writing.”

He points out the positive aspects of this:

I imagine it must be frustrating to be a southern writer, to always have the voices of Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner echoing through literary conversations. Or to be a poet in San Francisco, with the ghosts of so many Beats still knocking about. But here in the Midwest, we have less of an overt tradition to which we must answer. We can do whatever we want.

He’s probably right. But I also wondered whether Garrison Keillor might not be as stifling to contemporary Midwestern authors as O’Connor, Faulkner, and the ghost of the Beats. Never underestimate the power of a folksy country bumpkin with ambition.

And that’s the news from gaaaa-haaaaaa….

Image credit: http://www.lippsisters.com