Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Rich And Dying Fall

In the house the women begin to sing. We hear the first line commence, beginning to swell as they take hold, and we rise and move toward the door, taking off our hats and throwing our chews away. We do not go in. We stop at the steps, clumped, holding our hats between our lax hands in front or behind, standing with one foot advanced and our heads lowered, looking aside, down at our hats in our hands and at the earth or now and then at the sky and at one another's grave, composed face.

The song ends; the voices quaver away with a rich and dying fall. Whitfield begins. His voice is bigger than him. It's like they are not the same. It's like he is one, and his voice is one, swimming on two horses side by side across the ford and coming into the house, the mud-splashed one and the one that never even got wet, triumphant and sad. Somebody in the house begins to cry. It sounds like her eyes and her voice were turned back inside her, listening; we move, shifting to the other leg, meeting each other's eye and making like they hadn't touched.

Whitfield stops at last. The women sing again. In the thick air it's like their voices come out of the air, flowing together and on in the sad, comforting tunes. When they cease it's like they hadn't gone away. It's like they had just disappeared into the air and when we moved we would loose them again out of the air around us, sad and comforting. Then they finish and we put on our hats, our movements stiff, like hadn't never wore hats before.
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner

William Faulkner spent much as his spell as a Hollywood screenwriter scheming to return home to Mississippi. He did, however, strike up an unlikely friendship with the famously ignorant Clark Gable. It was a perfect relationship, said one wag: Faulkner had never seen a movie and Gable have never read a book.


Roy said...

I didn't realize Faulkner grew a beard at one point. When I saw the picture of the guy with the beard, hat, and pipe, I thought it was D.H. Lawrence. Then I read the post.

So, what occasions a post on Faulkner today? A late birthday tribute (his birthday was this past Saturday)?

Editilla~New Orleans Ladder said...

Thanks K. Wonderful post.
I don't find the Faulkner/Gabel friendship unlikely at all.
Aside from being indifferent, and sometimes even downright hostile, to the "Hollywood Scene", Gabel also had a naturally quiet way of speaking privately with a sometimes indecipherable patois.
Also, both were avid bird hunters.
Neither could stand Truman Capote.
Both loved New Orleans.

On another note, congrats on the Seahawks this weekend!
New Orleans is bringing back kicker Carney, but wants to keep Hartley. I do not consider that Hartley "lost" the game against those dirty birds Sunday. Our defense couldn't get off the field and the offense couldn't stay on the field. Everyone down here feels that the Saints lost that game.
Hope that is a wake up call for our boys.

Ima Wizer said...

VERY interesting and terrific photos! Thanks, K!

T. Clear said...

Ah, yes, re: our conversation last night.

Lovely post, an unexpected song first thing in the morning.

K. said...

Roy, the birthday is pure coincidence. My son showed us his manual typewriter last night (a White, I think; it has the touch of a Steinway) and someone brought up the famous third picture above. The excerpt is a particular favorite from one of my bucket list books.

Editilla, for CK, no visit to New Orleans without a sojourn a Faulkner House books. Re the 'Hawks, count me as a skeptic who thought they'd be 0-3!

The stories of Faulkner's days in Hollywood are legion. He once asked Darryl Zanuck if he could work from home. Zanuck, assuming that Faulkner meant a nearby apartment, gave his assent. Faulkner caught the next plane to Mississippi.

Ima, I'm a sucker for photos of writers. There's a wonderful book called An Unweaving of Rainbows: Images of Irish Writers (Minihan) that is well worth digging up.

T., I had a feeling that this passage might register with you!

tnlib said...

Ah yes. At first I too thought it was Lawrence but immediately realized the fellow looked a little too robust to be him. Nice.

nursemyra said...

I love that book

K. said...

Faulkner thought it his best novel. It's on my list of novels everyone should read before they die. Today, the others are Great Expectations, Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, Wuthering Heights, Women In Love, and Lonesome Dove.