Officially speaking, William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying tells the story of Bundren family traveling to bury their mother, Addie. Quickly in the narrative she dies. Children and husband must fulfill last request to take Mom’s body on a 40-mile trek in a wagon to be buried in Jefferson, Mississippi. Written in 1930, it dances the line between modern and post-modern literature. Different characters’ voices take over each chapter, and as the book progresses, the reader is given a complex, dark, and intimate narrative.
Unofficially, I believe it is a book written about a mother who simply wanted her family to…
Among Marilynne Robinson’s many brilliant essays, a 2012 Foreword to the Modern Library’s latest edition of The Sound and the Fury particularly struck a chord, the edition a must-buy despite its paint-chipped wood (new south!) cover. Maybe it’s her easy command of language, her gently probing (rather than assertively polemical) style of argument, maybe that it’s one of the few pieces I’ve read on Faulkner’s opus that seems like it takes the novel’s now less-than-in-vogue religious sensibilities seriously. At any rate, the publishers got it right with asking her to do it (see too the JJ Sullivan intro to Absalom, Absalom!). A couple of highlights below:
We all know the feeling of being in a rut: repetition temporarily dominates variation, and we’re going in circles, with routine and mundanity showing no signs of breaking. Most recently, Rust Cohle on True Detective comes to mind. His quote that “time is a flat circle” emphasizes repetitiveness, lack of progress, everything repeating and repeating – “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow / Creeps in this petty pace”, as Shakespeare’s Macbeth puts it. What lent the air of futility to Macbeth’s time? He had a goal, a telos, or end, earlier: to become king. Once his ambition is fulfilled, there is no more movement toward…
Memory and imagination work to give us experiences outside of the present moment, whether through recorded sensations (the low lights and taste of dinner yesterday), images of things past (the 2013 State of the Union on Youtube), or stringings-together of bare words: “at that time a decree went out…” We’re indisputably determined by our own pasts and our relation to them, and Christianity makes the distinct claim that we’re fundamentally determined by another’s past, a story we remember at this particular time of year. Though our past(s) – and our relations to the past, are opaque, I think one of…
This short Thanksgiving Day devotion comes to us from Paul Walker:
Virginians, being Virginians, like to claim that the first Thanksgiving took place not at Plymouth Rock, but at Berkley Plantation in Virginia in 1619. The ships that arrived from England had a charter that required that the day of arrival be observed yearly as a “day of thanksgiving” to God.
“We ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.” So, on that first day…
This reflection on literary fatherhood and the “blame game” comes to us from Mockingbird friend Sam Bush.
Legend has it that William Faulkner, in response to his 12-year old daughter’s pleading for him to give up drinking, sharply told the girl, “Nobody remembers Shakespeare’s children.” It’s a hard story to stomach, especially if your life has been eternally and wonderfully altered by The Sound and the Fury or Go Down, Moses. Faulkner’s books, of course, helped shape American literature and have touched the lives of millions of readers, but who’s to say that those millions of readers are more significant than little Jill Faulkner? The…
Join Paul Walker and James Wilson (yes, of Sons of Bill fame) for The Life and Work of William Faulkner. We discuss Faulkner’s brave, honest, (and perhaps peerless?) exploration of “the human heart in conflict with itself,”–his self-proclaimed raison d’etre for his varied and voluminous literary corpus. And, we attempt to make a compelling case for the deeply flawed (go figure) author’s Christian hope which stealthily seeps up out of the fecund ground of his imaginative, storytelling, Christ-haunted genius. We give special attention The Sound And The Fury, the work we believe to be the masterpiece of American literature.
No lit-crit savvy necessary! As one professor said, “If you want to learn about other people, read Dostoyevsky. If you want to learn about yourself, read Faulkner.” So, come one, come all!
Here’s the audio recording from the session.
Or, if you prefer, you can download it by right clicking here and selecting “Save link as…”
An incredible little passage from Faulkner’s Requiem for a Nun, ht PW:
Somebody to talk to, as we all seem to need, want, have to have, not to converse with you nor even agree with you, but just to keep quiet and listen. Which is all that people really want, really need; I meant, to behave themselves, keep out of one another’s hair; the maladjustments which they tell us breed the arsonists and rapists and murderers and thieves and the rest of the anti-social enemies, are not really maladjustments but simply because the embryonic murderers and thieves didn’t have anybody to…
When the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, even then there will still be one more sound: that of man’s puny, inexhaustible voice still talking.
Those are the words of William Faulkner, taken from his defiant, melancholy Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1950. They are also one hell of a way to open a record. Welcome to Sons of Bill’s third album, Sirens.
Every town has its hometown heroes and Sons of Bill are Charlottesville’s. I had the disadvantage of meeting some of the guys in…
If in good conscience I could reproduce the entirety of Marilynne Robinson’s beautiful recent piece on the Bible for the NY Times Book Review, “The Book of Books,” I would. Instead, a few paragraphs will have to suffice. If you happened to read it when it appeared a few days before Christmas, you’ll know what I’m talking about (am I the only one who prefers her essays to her longer form stuff?!). Miss Gilead brings her incredible gift for language to bear on the literary significance of Scripture, treading gracefully but assuredly into divisive ground, acknowledging cultural sensitivities without muting…
Of all the wonderful things Paul Walker said at the recent Birmingham Conference, this in particular stands out in my mind. Please forgive me as I paraphrase from memory:
I know people who are just beside themselves over trying to get their kids into just the right preschool, because getting into just the right preschool means getting into just the right primary school, which means getting into just the right college, so that one can have just the right career, marry just the right kind of person and have just the right kind of kids, that of course will get into…just…
WHAT: Mockingbird seeks to connect the Christian faith with the realities of everyday life in fresh and down-to-earth ways.
WHY: Are we called Mockingbird? The name was inspired by the mockingbird’s peculiar gift for mimicking the cries of other birds. In a similar way, we seek to repeat the message we have heard - God’s word of grace and forgiveness.
HOW: Via every medium available! At present this includes (but is not limited to) a daily weblog, semi-annual conferences, and an ongoing publications initiative.
WHO: At present, we employ three full-time staff, David Zahl and Ethan Richardson and William McDavid. They are helped and supported by a large number of contributing volunteers and writers. Our board of directors is chaired by Mr. Thomas Becker.
WHERE: Our offices are located at Christ Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, VA.
WHEN: Mockingbird was incorporated in June 2007 and is currently in its seventh year of operation.
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