Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Faulkner, Foote, and....McCarthy

David Woodbury put up a nice blog posting yesterday celebrating the birthday of William Faulkner. I read The Sound and the Fury back in high school but that's unfortunately the extent of my reading of this Southern literary master. Shelby Foote and Walker Percy (two fellows whose works I have read widely) are also mentioned in Woodbury's tribute to Faulkner.

When Mr. Foote died, I decided I would finally get motivated to read some of his fiction; after all, he apparently wanted to be known as a novelist above all else anyway. [Coincidentally, Dimitri over at Civil War Bookshelf was doing the same thing.] I must say I was impressed with Foote's writing. I started with Love in a Dry Season and was suitably charged to go further. With Love in a Dry Season, his writing reminded me a bit of Fitzgerald although I would certainly maintain that Foote possessed his own suitably unique voice. I followed this first taste with Follow Me Down(this one has an intriguing experimental structure) and Jordan County. I enjoyed Jordan County, a collection of uneven short stories, the least by far. My next foray is planned to be September, September, whenever I get around to obtaining a copy. Of course, finding copies online is easy enough but it is rather disappointing how difficult his books are to find locally and the library system only has a copy of Shiloh, as if in perverse reinforcement of the general typecasting of Foote as only a "Civil War" writer (additionally, all the obits I read had him headlined as a historian).

This brings me to a man often favorably compared to Faulkner (or dismissed as an imitator by more perverse critics). Cormac McCarthy is my favorite living writer and a novelist who is certainly among the top of any list of my favorite fiction writers from any period or genre. His landscapes (specifically his Appallachian and desert Southwest creations) and images are stark, cruel, and often hopeless yet they are at the same time exceedingly beautiful. The characters that inhabit these worlds are equally unforgettable, most notably The Judge from Blood Meridian.

[I recently discovered that the Coen brothers are currently filming an adaptation of McCarthy's No Country for Old Men. With McCarthy's next novel due out soon, it is a good time to be a fan--or become one.]


  1. Drew,

    We've talked about our mutual appreciation for Cormac McCarthy, so I won't repeat that here, but I was curious about a couple things. What did you think of the Hollywood rendition of "All The Pretty Horses"? I thought it well done, myself, but there was a big window between the time I read the book and when the movie came out, which helps a lot.

    Also wanted to ask if you'd read any of Walker Percy's novels (I have not). About 10 or 15 years ago, there was a collection of his nonfiction work published, "Signposts in a Strange Land," which included a couple of powerful essays about what the Civil War meant to him as a southern boy. One talks about getting shipped off to war (WWII), and for the first time being brought together with boys from northern states.

    Percy was the person who facilitated the publication of "A Confederacy of Dunces," J. K. Toole's masterpiece, and wrote the introduction, if memory serves.


  2. David,
    I didn't experience them close together either. I seem to recall it getting a lot of negative reviews (with Roger Ebert being a notable exception), but I liked it as well, both as a movie and as a reasonable hollywood adaptation of a CM novel. Billy Bob Thornton did a fine job of direction again, too.

    I've read 3 or 4 of Percy's novels. The two that were most memorable were "The Moviegoer" (apparently there is a movie adaptation in the works) and "The Last Gentleman", and even then I can't really recall much about them as they didn't particularly resonate with me much. I haven't read any of his non-fiction.



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