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A Rose for Emily

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message 1: by Chris (new)

Chris Antenen | 139 comments Discussiion Group for April

message 2: by Chris (new)

Chris Antenen | 139 comments Decided to re-post this here because I don't know what I'm doing!

I've chosen this story mainly because it's accessible on the internet. I had others in mind and maybe we ought to talk about availability if we go on with this group.

Since I'm Illinois born (lived there 31 years) but have spent the rest of my life in the South, I wanted to use a Southern writer. Of course there's Flannery, but also Eudora Welty who writes in that style. Specifically I wanted to choose Ferrol Sams and THE WIDOW'S MITE, but I couldn't find it online. So I've chosen another Southern writer, like Welty born in Mississippi, Faulkner and A ROSE FOR EMILY. I can never decide if this is the first iteration of this twisted tale or the last, but anyway it's fun to read and I think most of you will like it--in fact, most of you have probably read it. You can find it at the following link.
Don't groan. You almost got Rikki Tikki Tavi.

TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez (Madly77) "A Rose for Emily" is one of my all time favorite short stories. Can't wait to discuss it. I think it's an absolute masterpiece.

message 4: by Geoff (new)

Geoff Wyss | 171 comments I'll be teaching "Emily" to my students tomorrow in English III....

As Gabrielle says, a pretty perfect little story. I'll throw in my two cents when the discussion gets going.

message 5: by Chris (new)

Chris Antenen | 139 comments Would love to be a fly on the wall, Geoff. What's the context? Are you 'teaching' Faulkner or short stories?

TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez (Madly77) My writing partner, who is an English professor and a dean, says his students don't usually come into the university loving "the good stuff." But they do love "A Rose for Emily" because of the perversity of the story. Well, that's one way to lure them away from Stephen King.

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jennifer (mascarawand) | 51 comments I haven't read Faulkner in years after being so frustrated with "As I Lay Dying" but I'll have to give him another shot now. This was a really good choice. Genteel yet creepy and so much sadness.
I had seen this story on t.v. when I was a kid and it had stuck with me all these years but I didn't know it was Faulkner. I wish I knew who had made that t.v. show. I think it followed the story exactly.

message 8: by Geoff (new)

Geoff Wyss | 171 comments Chris: Our English III curriculum focuses on essay writing, so literature takes a back seat. I've dovetailed this one Faulkner story in among a double handful of 20th-century short stories, a mini-unit on Frost, and a mini-unit on the Harlem Renaissance. They're also reading 'The Catcher in the Rye' and 'The Natural' outside of class. It's not perfect, but I do what I can.

Gabrielle: Yes, the kids do like this story for its creepiness. Also, unfortunately, for its briefness.

TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez (Madly77) It's always good when a student comes to a class liking Stephen King or Stephanie Meyer and leaves liking F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner. That happens sometimes in my writing partner's classes. I was lucky. I grew up with parents who read the classics and insisted I do the same. Even if I couldn't read Anna Karenina when I was in elementary school, I grew up wanting to be old enough to read it.

message 10: by Geoffrey (new)

Geoffrey | 132 comments Gothic salon of horrors! So good ole Faulkner did actually write a short story that one does not have to go back and read twice to understand the most simplest of actions.
Which brings to mind AS I LAY DYING. There is a scene in which the daughter is in the barn with the horse and the retarded brother walks in on her unannounced. She speaks to him sharply to cover her shame for she is caught in some act of sexuality, but for the life of me can not to this day figure out exactly what transpired. So typical of Faulkner to intimate without being lucid as to what is happening.
It is so very clear here in this story what has happened I have to question as to its author`s authenticity. Seems more like a Shirley Jackson story attributed to Faulkner. Anyone want to bet Shakespeare is not Shakespeare?
However, true to form, Faulkner does coin phrases and short passages that are difficult to decipher, despite the overall lucidity of the story itself.

message 11: by Geoffrey (new)

Geoffrey | 132 comments Some examples of cumbersome writing-

in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies

lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton

with the crayon face of her father musing profoundly above the bier

In each of these three sentences we have examples of the long stretch-Faulkner using words so creatively as to lose their import

Why a CRAYON face? No professional artist uses crayons for a portrait.

A house is not capable of COQUETTISH decay

and the oxymoron HEAVILY LIGHTSSOME style

No wonder Faulkner is so difficult to read. His creativity exceeds the relevance of the words he uses. But at other times he`s absolutely brilliant as per example

but now the long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him.

How brilliant the use of the word CUCKOLDED.

Perhaps had Faulkner and Hemingway been better friends their complementary weakness would have merged to create even an even better writer for at least one of them. Faulkner could use with a little bit more self criticism and deleted those verbose flourishes that only confuse the reader....

As for the story itself, what is so interesting is that there is after reading it, the realization that there is no real change at all in Emily`s character, but the changes are in the town`s perceptions.

message 12: by Chris (new)

Chris Antenen | 139 comments After the heated discussion of the last short story we read, this one is not eliciting much comment at all. I enjoyed yours, Geoffrey because I had some of the same reactions. I did, however, have to go back and read the story more than once. He’s not very good at sequence of events. On first read (this time) I thought she had two beaux. One thing, though, I do believe there were two mentions of the crayon portrait. In the first one, since it was on an easel, I assumed Emily had drawn it as a child. When it appears above the bier, I think it’s just another out-of-character action, supposedly attributed to Emily.
I keep thinking this story is not unique, but I don’t know if this is the first one written or the first one I read. Sorry about the bad pun, but it haunts me. Can any of you think of other instances in literature, movies, whatever, with a surprise ending involving a dead body? Is there a myth? An opera? Shakespeare? The best example I can think of is the movie, Psycho.
Can anyone else come up with a criticism or frustration with Faulkner? I know that's hard, laughing here, but it's been done before. I’ve read comments that he used first person plural as perspective, and I had to check because I didn’t pick that up, and I usually notice POV. Did he do that because he saw the town as a character?
Jennifer, was your frustration in reading 'As I Lay Dying' that it made you constantly go back to see where the chapter you are reading fits into the book.
Geoff, we might like to read some of the comments of your students.
He obviously influenced me. This comment is all over the place.

message 13: by TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez (last edited Apr 10, 2010 05:53PM) (new)

TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez (Madly77) Geoffrey wrote: "Some examples of cumbersome writing-

in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies

lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton

with the crayon face of her father musing p..."

I'm not sure the town changed all that much in their perception of Miss Emily. Even after her death, they spoke of her with great respect. Did anyone notice how the bedroom was all rose in hue, Emily's "rose."

I felt terribly sorry for Miss Emily. Her father obviously kept her a spinster, the way the mother in PSYCHO kept the Tony Perkins character a "Mama's boy." Poor Miss Emily wanted to leave and live a "normal" life.

After her father's death, she was still respected by the people in town. They paid her taxes, I think it was until all the older people died and younger people took their place.

I thought the language Faulkner used fit the material perfectly. No, it would sound ludicrous for Garrison Keillor to use those words, but not for someone writing about a very formal time in the Old South.

message 14: by Joseph (last edited Apr 10, 2010 06:29PM) (new)

Joseph (jazzman) | 35 comments A few random thoughts about Faulkner:

I'll wager if you took a survey of writer's of serious fiction, a clear majority would single out Faulkner as their favorite American author.

John Gardner, in his classic The Art of Fiction, has noted how Faulkner sometimes became so engrossed in displaying his obvious mastery,that a story suffered because of his lack of attention to the needs of his readers.

At times Faulkner considered himself a failed poet... no haiku for him.

Geoff's III class is lucky to have a teacher who has an appreciation of fine writing and the patience and stamina(and love) to share it with them.

I hope Geoffrey will agree with me that the occasions when Faulkner is absolutely brilliant, more than make up for those other unhelpful but understandable slips into vanity.

TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez (Madly77) Faulkner is, without a doubt, my favorite American writer.

message 16: by Chris (new)

Chris Antenen | 139 comments Why, Gabrielle? I hear it but I can't believe there aren't other American authors that would have more appeal, so that puts me in that 'show me, don't tell me' mode.

I've only read four of his books and I had to push myself. My reading/writing group of six had decided to take advantage of Oprah's reading guides the summer she took on Faulkner. We read The Vanquished first before the three volume set ('As I Lay Dying,' 'The Sound and the Fury,' and 'Light in August') because the Fine Arts in English graduate among us thought it was the easiest. Up to that time I had only read 'A Rose for Emily.' Our BFA member was right, it got us hooked, but I can't say I came away from the total experience feeling anything but a sense of accomplishment and fatigue, glad to put him away and go on to others.

Maybe a clear majority of male writers of serious fiction would choose him as their favorite.

As for being willing to put up with his 'unhelpful but understandable slips into vanity' in order to find 'occasions when Faulkner is absolutely brilliant,' it's not doable. I've walked through snake infested brambles to see one trillium, but it wasn't very far.

Faulkner bragged about writing 'As I Lay Dying' in a few weeks without editing. And there it is.

So far your comments are fascinating. Wonder what you would have thought of 'The Widow's Mite.'

message 17: by jennifer (last edited Apr 11, 2010 08:57AM) (new)

jennifer (mascarawand) | 51 comments Chris, I had a problem with "As I Lay Dying" for several reasons. I grabbed it out of the library knowing nothing about Faulkner's style, only that I'd heard of him. I was probably too young (this was years ago) and had never encountered stream of consciousness (I'm still not a fan) and I think my reaction was "What is this guy on?"
Faulkner is probably a writer who readers love if they are guided by a teacher because otherwise they can end up holding a grudge against the guy for years,like me, lol.

message 18: by Geoff (new)

Geoff Wyss | 171 comments Geoffrey wrote: "Some examples of cumbersome writing-

in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies

lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton

with the crayon face of her father musing p..."

I don't think every sentence in the story is perfect, but I don't have a problem with any of the ones you single out, Geoffrey. I'm sure Faulkner knows that 'heavily lightsome' is an oxymoron, but there's nothing wrong with an oxymoron per se. In this case, I think the phrase means something like 'clumsily decorative,' an attempt at architectural playfulness that doesn't quite come off.

As for the house being 'coquettish,' of course it's not literally possible, but he's subtly personifying the house all the way through that second paragraph (and through the whole story) and allowing the reader to draw a parallel between the house and Emily.

Like Chris, I take the crayon portrait to be one that Emily herself executed as a child. (We know she has some artistic leanings because she gives the neighborhood kids china-painting lessons in her dotage.)

I would instead complain (if I were in a complaining mood) about those sentences that go too far on a syntactical level, that ask too much of the reader's belief that a townsperson is narrating the story. Things like: "This behind their hands; rustling of craned silk and satin behind jalousies closed upon the sun of Sunday afternoon as the thin, swift clop-clop-clop of the matched team passed." That's a very beautiful sentence, but it's not artistically honest because it doesn't belong in this narrator's mouth.

However, you don't often find a better sentence than the second sentence of the second paragraph of Part V (sorry, too long to type the whole thing): "They held . . . decade of years." He covers a great deal of ground in that sentence and does so gracefully, never torturing the language past the normal rhythms of speech.

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Geoffrey | 132 comments I am so glad I got things moving on this one. I was slightly nervous that my comments would be torn to shreds, so thanks, for being gentle.
I have been alternately attracted and repelled by Faulkner. He is so clearly a writer`s writer that I have to give him inordinate credit. AS I LAY DYING is alternately on my top ten list and then #1, bouncing THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV off its perch.
I first read AS I LAY DYING halfway through. As soon as the mother died I stopped reading it and went on to another assignment. This was way back when I was a lit major and took the opportunity to wander afield. I had always promised myself that I would go back to reading it someday, convinced that it would be one of the best reads in my lifetime.
In the 80`s I tried to read it and again was stymied by the difficult stye of writing but only about 3 years ago was I able to muster the energy to finish it off.
It`s interesting how another southern writer, ERSKINE CALDWELL, deals with much of the same material but in a decidedly inferior way. Had there been no Faulkner, we would be reading a short story somewhat akin to TOBACCO ROAD, instead of this one.

message 20: by Geoffrey (new)

Geoffrey | 132 comments Yes, Joseph, the man is absolutely brilliant. I wouldn`t ever think of taking that away from him. It`s the lack of self-criticism with which I fault him and the flourishes of literary conceit that bother me. He must have caught that particular disease from his Irish counterpart.

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Chris Antenen | 139 comments Interesting that this story discussion turned into a very, very literary discussion of Faulkner, not the story, and the last story discussion turned mainly on whether or not the protagonist was a misogynist, not the story. Always a surprise, this group’s reaction is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates.

Who's next?

message 22: by Geoffrey (new)

Geoffrey | 132 comments Okay, so let´s get it back on target. Not that I particularly believe the following expressed opinion but it did occur to me as a further reading of the story.
On the one hand, most have agreed that it was the father that created the spinster of the daughter, but consider for a moment her actions. She keeps a corpse in her bedroom for years! The woman is demented. Who knows a child better than the parents? In this context, the father is wise not to burden a son-in-law with such a wife. And by not introducing a stranger to the family household he is able to maintain its most embarrassing secret, namely that his daughter is loonier than a sanatorium filled with catatonics.
Now what kind of chocolate am I?

message 23: by jennifer (new)

jennifer (mascarawand) | 51 comments That's a good observation, Geoffrey, and one I hadn't thought of before.

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Chris Antenen | 139 comments Yes, Geoffrey, that one made me laugh out loud. So in the vernacular of the day, you're an LOL Chocolate. I wasn't looking for story critique, just observing our group dynamics, but I liked it anyway. I never thought 'loony' just the old 'stiff upper lip' makes for a stiff in the attic.

message 25: by Geoff (new)

Geoff Wyss | 171 comments Whether Emily is 'loony' to begin with or made loony by her father is probably a chicken/egg argument, the story not providing enough evidence for a definitive answer.

A more interesting reason for her separation from the town, one that lies at the heart of Faulkner's interests in this story, is the social gap between Emily's family and the rest of the town. Even though she doesn't really have any money left, she and the townspeople still think of her as being from a "better" family. The town holds themselves away from her as much as she and her father hold themselves away from the town. Homer Barron is viable as a beau exactly because he's from the north and not part of the social economy of this small Southern town.

Faulkner's always really writing about the changing South, and that's what's going on in this story: Emily is the embodied delusion of holding onto a past that no longer exists. If Emily is loony, then the South is loony, at least insofar as it's unable to join the changing times around it.

message 26: by Geoffrey (new)

Geoffrey | 132 comments Yes, my namesake, I agree on there not being enough evidence. But aside from whether Faulkner himself had any intent on the matter, one can´t help but ask oneself, if the woman had no predisposition to insanity, could she have been driven there? That´s my own personal take on the matter and one that Faulkner avoids dealing with. That is the ambiguity in the story that each reader has to deal with on his own.

As for the very last comment you made, that is from your personal perspective concerning the south and I suspect a preconceived idea that you have imposed on the region and the story. Actually the town itself does change, so the indictment can be only justified in considering Emily´s family. You can´t extend it to the town itself and by extension to the South as a whole.
Having lived in the South for 15 years, I can test to the zaniness of the region´s mentality but not in the context of your comments.

message 27: by Geoff (new)

Geoff Wyss | 171 comments No, that's exactly what I'm saying: the town around Emily changes, but she doesn't, and Faulkner sets her up (in my opinion) as an analogue to the South. I also live in the South (for 17 years!) if it makes any difference.

message 28: by Chris (new)

Chris Antenen | 139 comments Would recent events give you reason to doubt your last sentence, Geoff (at 5:04 am)? I don’t think so and that’s not a preconceived idea.

That question comes from someone who lives in and loves the South (since '63)-- me. Celestine Sibley, a longtime humor columnist for the Atlanta Journal and Constitution wrote a book called 'Turned Funny: A Memoir' shortly before she died. The wonderful thing about Southerners and their writing is that most of them know that someplace along the way, they 'turned funny.' Too many long, hot days. Too much Atlanta. Too much poverty. Too much pluff mud on the coasts and red clay in the fields. Too many roaches in the ivy. Too many non-native plant invaders like kudzu and privet. Too much Civil War memorabilia hanging on walls, not to mention re-enactments and Confederate flags. I could go on and on, but the South is what it is--this huge melting pot, fighting it all the way, and yet with a well-deserved reputation for hospitality, and some well-disguised intelligence.

A funny recent anecdote about the above. A neighbor who had her rec room decorated with Confederate memorabilia was asked by her good friend from the Northeast if she had ever considered completing the decor by hanging a Yankee over the fireplace. She was able to laugh about this and joke also about the fact that the book GWTW was on her night table along with the Bible. Also, you may never have heard there are two types of Yankees in the South: Yankees and G.D. Yankees. The latter are those who stayed.

Faulkner knew whereof he wrote and if some of his prose had a 'funny turn' to it, consider his time on earth, his environment and his neighbors, his temperament and the fact that he stayed within one county and a few families for most of his novels. He was a very short man, and a man of extreme vices, but he was also a Southern treasure. His work becomes addictive even when you can't understand some of it, can’t find any sequence in the events and lose your sense of orientation, or get exasperated with his 'flourishes of literary conceit.' You can read Faulkner’s books and stories, point to all that’s wrong with them, and yet – you did read them. What more can an author ask?

As for Emily, I don’t think I read that much into her character. She didn’t find a boyfriend when she was young and when her last chance was going to leave (we assume) she killed him with rat poison and kept him in her bed. We are even led to believe she slept there because the hair on the pillow was gray. It’s a story. Watch the movie Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte and see the same daddy/daughter dynamic. Women don’t write things like that. (I put that last sentence out there so someone would tell me I’m wrong and prove it.) Why is it always a scorned woman? Would we even have a story if Emily had been Emmett? Would The Lottery have been as gripping a story if it had been Bill Hutchinson who got the black dot instead of Tessie?

message 29: by Geoffrey (new)

Geoffrey | 132 comments Who÷s next with a short story. It÷s May already.

message 30: by Chris (new)

Chris Antenen | 139 comments I copied this early: Some are missing. I think you're next Geoffrey.
If we're sticking to sign-up (or posting) order it would be: Jimmy (Jan), Geoff (Feb), Harley (Mar), Jennifer (Apr), A.J. (May), John (Jun), Chris (Jul), Geoffrey (Aug), Michael (Sep), Zybahn (Oct). Feel free to remove yourself(ves) if you wish, or add yourself(ves) on board.

message 31: by Chris (new)

Chris Antenen | 139 comments Geoffrey, you're next because some have left the group.

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