Sunday 14 November 2021

The Saddest Words

Finished November 9
The Saddest Words: William Faulkner's Civil War by Michael Gorra

I first read Faulkner in my university American Literature class, and have several of his novels on my shelves. This book looks at his books treatment of the civil war and its aftermath, and of his own personal statements on the same. Beyond that it looks deeply at the social history of the American South, and how the civil war is reflected in that history. 
It looks closely at several characters in his novels, and at how he portrays black characters, quite differently from other southern white authors, and we see how his books differed from the customary attitude about black people in the south. Some of these things in his novels were observations that he wasn't as comfortable saying publicly outside of fiction, and he still struggles with some of the prejudices of his peers. 
There is in-depth analysis of his writings, social commentary, historical comparisons between his fiction and the real events, and literary criticism. The book includes a chronology of his life, a list of his major works, and a brief history of his fictional Yoknapatawpha County. 
The title refers to references from the book, referring to the words "was" and "again", both references in this way by the author. 
I found this a fascinating insight into his books, and his environment. It seems especially apt during the social changes that we are going through now.

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