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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 6/7/20

In the Summer of the Pandemic and Insurrections: Reading Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!

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Message Dr. Lenore Daniels

"' And now" we're going to talk about love.'"

Rarely will a list of books recommended for summer reading include a novel by William Faulkner. It's a difficult read, true. But this summer of our pervading pandemic, we do well to understand America's legacy of violence. It's such a legacy that is behind the thinking of a young white woman who can't be asked to follow the rules, put her dog on a leash, not if the person doing the asking, politely, is a black man. Such stepping out of lines triggers fear in the woman who proceeds to call the police to report an African American in Central Park! Save her! He might be dangerous!

W. Kandinsky reads 'Absalom, Absalom!' (1 of 11) The late great audiobook reader Wolfram Kandinsky reading 'Absalom, Absalom!' by William Faulkner. This is the first of eleven parts. Please leave a comment if ...
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Or what about those Americans, ignoring the necessity for physical distance, flaunting the look-ma-no-mask bare face. For many of these fellow citizens, only the blacks, Latinx, and Indigenous are COVID targets!

Police putting a knee down on the neck of a black man, and just waiting, five minutes, steadily keeping the black man's neck. Hearing the screams of this man, I can't breathe . But holding the knee steady. Steady. Until there's no life in the human being below his knee.

What will it be tomorrow? And the day after that and all the days and months and years to come?

When William Faulkner decides to stay at home, it's a big deal. He's tried Paris; he's sat at an outdoor cafe, at a table right next to James Joyce. And while he looked on at the author of Ulysses, he, Faulkner, was tongue tied. Faulkner leaves, returns home to Oxford, Mississippi, and from Rowan Oaks, he'll become the American writer, reflecting, from his "postage stamp," the pervading narrative he's learned from childhood, a narrative of imagery so engrossing as to have supplanted reality, giving birth to an entire system of thought. It's no wonder, Faulkner thinks, that after the Civil War the foundation of American society is rumbling, refusing to rest.

Joyce can have Europe. He, Faulkner, will stay put, think about those seemingly innocent stories America tells itself.

How does it work? Because it works, otherwise, it wouldn't wouldn't have been worth all the fighting and dying for.

The Earth rumbles when Thomas Sutpen arrives back in the US, and lands in Jefferson, Yoknapatawpha County. The native son, tenant farmer's son in Virginia, left the country when, at age 14 years old, when a black man, opening the front door of a plantation mansion, informed him that he would have to go to the door at the back, that is, at the back of the house.

Faulkner's protagonist from The Sound and the Fury , Quentin Compson, has been resurrected to be Faulkner's surrogate and listen, once again, to this narrative on how the South was defeated. Because it was defeated in this narrative in part by the arrival of this one man to Mississippi. And, according to Rosa Coldfield, the town's poet laureate and (re)creator of this local version of an American tale, folks like Sutpen and those blacks her brought with him from Haiti, this union has ruined America, has brought it down nothing more than a playground for industrial business from the North, a tribe of people who don't know anything about the peaceful, pastoral culture of Southern life.

Profit makers! Foreigners, all!

It's Faulkner's 1936 novel, Absalom, Absalom! All these many years later, Rosa Coldfield, an old dame, is determined to infuse the newest generation in the 1920s (Faulkner's generation) with the true, that is, eye witness, account of what happened in the antebellum South, what happened before and after that War. Quentin Compson, all of 22 years old, his listening to what he's heard before: Colonel Thomas Sutpen's brand of doing business in Mississippi was unique! Unlike anything the town or the South or the country for that matter has ever seen!

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Dr. Lenore Daniels Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Activist, writer, American Modern Literature, Cultural Theory, PhD.

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