Monday, January 16, 2012

Dear Mr. Faulkner...

Dear Mr. Faulkner,

I am afraid our brief acquaintance must come to an end. It’s not you, it’s me. Well, it’s my inability to understand your writing. I have long cherished a hope that you and I could be BFFs, but I have come to the realization that we are not meant to be.

For twenty-two years, you have been the ghost at my shoulder as I wrote. My ninth grade English teacher, Mrs. Stewart, once told me, “Your writing reminds me of William Faulkner’s.” I took it as high praise. Now…I can’t help but wonder if it was not meant to be complimentary. Was she referring to my long-winded sentences that were paragraphs within themselves, or was there something more insidious in her comment? I will forever wonder.

Although you may not know it, our paths have crossed many times. I read your short stories in both high school and college. “A Rose for Emily” was the perfect example of Southern gothic fiction. Surely, I thought, your other writing would elicit a similar sense of joy in me.

Joy? Not the word I would choose now.

When Charles and I visited New Orleans, I fell in love with Pirate’s Alley where you lived and wrote some of your first stories. I bought a picture of it. I bought a copy of your short stories at Faulkner’s Books.

I was convinced we were going to be kindred spirits.

Kindred? Not the word I would choose now.

I believed you and I would get along royally due to the company you kept. You were Southern -- I love Tennessee Williams and Eudora Welty. You were a modernist -- T.S. Eliot, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway are all great companions of mine. James Joyce? Not so much. Perhaps when I read you wrote in a stream of consciousness that should have been a tip off.

But no. I went blithely on, thinking you and I were meant to be.

You were a New Year’s resolution. I was going to become a Faulkner aficionado. I even printed off an article entitled, “How to Read Faulkner.”

I checked out The Sound and the Fury from the library. (Thank goodness I only borrowed you.)

 I settled down to spend my Friday night with you.

That is a Friday night I will never regain.

Where did we go wrong?

Perhaps it was when you trapped me in Benjy’s mind for 75 pages. 75 pages of stream of consciousness with Benjy jumping from one point to another.

Perhaps it was when I couldn’t figure out whether Quentin was a boy or a girl because Benjy kept changing from calling Quentin a him to a her. (Do you know it took me looking up a Wikipedia article to discover that there were two Quentins? How was I supposed to figure this out on my own???)

Perhaps it was the sense that I was moving through a vat of molasses in January.

When did I know we were never going to work out?

That I can answer definitively. It was in the nine pages of the second section. While I had thought Benjy was a difficult narrator, nothing prepared me for Quentin as a narrator. He was impossible to follow, and I realized…

Why was I doing this to myself? Our relationship was unhealthy to my own well-being. I could not and would not put myself through 296 more pages of this madness just to say I had read it.

You and I. We were never meant to be.

I wish you the best. Go on and live a happy life in college classes and literary circles far loftier than the ones I frequent.

One day, our paths may cross again, and I would still like to visit your lovely home, Rowan Oaks, and leave you a bottle of Jack Daniel’s at your grave. I hope that we can remain nodding acquaintances.

For my part, I have found a new BFF. Her name is Fannie Flagg and I am reading her book Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man. I knew she was the kindred spirit I was searching for within the first chapter when I had laughed out loud on every page.

Who wouldn’t love lines like, “The trip down was great. I saw real cotton growing and cows and read Burma Shave signs and there were rednecks all along the side of the road. Momma says I have white trash blood on my father’s side, but I don’t believe it”?

Maybe Daisy Fay is my rebound relationship, but she sure is a heap more fun than Benjy and Quentin.

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