Sanctuary Sanctuary discussion

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message 1: by Sherry (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:37PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sherry This is the book we are reading for Classics Corner to begin discussion on October 1, 2007.

message 2: by Sherry (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:52PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sherry I apologize for not having completed this on time. I have about 100 pages to go, but I'll at least kick off the discussion. I was very confused by the first section, and wondered why in the world Temple didn't just hoof it down the road. I didn't realize at the time she was only 17. I guess that makes a kind of difference. She was a rebellious kid who got into a bit more rebellion than she could handle. Every time Faulkner described her actions she was flitting here, jerking there, like a moth in a bottle trying to escape. Later in the book, when we hear some things from her perspective, it makes a bit more sense. I think as I get older, even for Faulkner-lite, I have a hard time making sense of things. There was a day when I could read Absalom, Absalom straight through, just letting it spill over me. But I can't do stuff like that any more.

message 3: by Michael (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:53PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Michael I think it's also worthwhile to look at the general theme of class differences in Sanctuary. Temple and Gowan are obviously from a "higher" class than the gangsters at the Frenchman Place. Temple continues to emphasize that her father is a Judge, her family knows the Governor, etc. Early in the story, Temple tries to find some common ground between herself and the occupants of the house. This seems to only infuriate Ruby. I think Temple is use to being driven around (which is what happens when you have money and a name in the community). She keeps asking Ruby to arrange for a car so she can leave.
I grew up in the South (though not during Faulkner's time!!), but I can attest to the significance of how important the differences were between rich and poor, black and white. They live in distinct spheres. These spheres were walled off from each other by often unexpressed "rules" that clearly established patterns of superiority and inferiority. Everyone had to know and not forget their "proper place." I don't have the text in front of me, but there is that scene in the beginning where Gowan is telling all the intimate details of his personal life to the gangsters on the porch. Ruby is eavesdropping and is commenting on how ridiculuous he is. She says something like why doesn't he go back to his own people and women to take care of him. I think she is seeing the absurdity of him assuming there are no class differences between them.


message 4: by Sherry (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:56PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sherry I finished this yesterday and have been mulling it over. I can imagine that it really caused a stir when it was first published. The book felt very uneven to me. Some sections were beautiful; some were confusing. In one section when someone was discussing what had happened to Temple, they said she had been home, but then left again. Was this just a ploy by her family to hide the fact that she had been kidnapped? What good would that do?

I can't figure out what great themes we are talking about here, if any. This almost seems like sensationalism just for the thrill of it (and the money of it?)

Do you think that Faulkner would be considered a great writer if he were publishing in today's world?

message 5: by Ruth (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:56PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Ruth I think he'd be a great writer based on several of his other books. This one, altho it's easier reading, I just didn't get.


message 6: by Rob (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:56PM) (new)

Rob McMonigal Tough sledding so far for me, I can't keep myself from considering this to be an exploitative book that plays off stereotypical fears of the "scary black man" and I thought Faulkner was better than that. Am hoping it gets better.


message 7: by Sherry (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:56PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sherry I couldn't figure out who was black and who wasn't. I ended up not relying entirely on his "descriptions" which I sometimes took as metaphorical and not physical.

message 8: by Sherry (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:56PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sherry I think over all I "got" the plot, although I didn't get why the plot had any significance.

message 9: by Ruth (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:56PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Ruth I read it long enough ago that I don't remember much about the plot, except the girl running ineffectually hither and yon. When I say I didn't get it, I meant just what you did, Sherry, why is this important. I wish I remembered what Warbasse had to say.


message 10: by Jim (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:56PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim This is a book where I probably like the style better than the substance.

In terms of ideas, the book is pretty much the standard Faulkner critique of the feckless Old South pining for a civilization that is, pardon the expression, gone with the wind, and the crass New South that is taking over.

The music, though, is extraordinary, the way Faulkner will describe a walk along the road in detail and barely allude to why people are taking the walk in the first place. Or lines like this:

"Gowan filled the glass level full and lifted it and emptied it steadily. He remembered setting the glass down carefully, then he became aware simultaneously of open air, of a chill gray freshness and an engine panting on a siding at the head of a dark string of cars, and that he was trying to tell someone that he had learned to drink like a gentleman."

The atmsophere he creates is compelling.There are no great thoughts here, just a mounting sense of what Gowan is, how unwise it would be to depend on him, and the evocative images: the chill air, the train on the siding, the lame conversational gambit. So often when I read a book I feel as though I am being taken through the paces so that the writer can make a point. Here I feel as if I am being taken through the paces because Faulkner takes a sinister joy in going through the paces, and I share that joy.

Faulkner worked on the script for The Big Sleep, and this book reads like a predecessor to the whole film noir sensibility, a gritty story with a lot of style.

-- Jim

message 11: by Sherry (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:57PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sherry Your points are well-taken, Jim. I may upgrade my opinion of the book based on your observations. I also liked the bit of black humor here. Popeye saying, "Fix my hair." And the sheriff saying, "I'll fix it." And then......

message 12: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:15PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robert This novel wasn’t sinking in at first. I had to read the first half twice before I could comprehend and retain what was going on, especially the goings on at Lee Goodwin’s place. Even with this attempt at a potboiler Faulkner requires too close attention for easy reading. It’s an odd blend of enigma and pulp. Nonetheless, I was eventually taken into this lurid, savage expose of the dark South.

Temple’s nightmare in the Memphis whorehouse in chapter XVIII is such campy horror that I was squealing out loud. Miss Reba and those dogs! Intermittantly I experienced vivid cinematic imagery while reading and was grateful for the interludes of humor to make the black-as-night gothic elements palatable.

This novel definitely contains the seeds of Cormac McCarthy’s writing. Faulkner’s stylistic influence on McCarthy is evident in the compound words, punctuation (ie cant), the tone of brutal cynicism and the lyric flights of squalor.

I can see how Sanctuary would be controversial in its day. And where is the sanctuary? This is a temple that has been violated. The title comes across to me as just ironic. There is no sacred refuge of safety in this dark region. The Baptists are as scary as anything else. Mississippi is so awful you got to love it. You’d think they’d have lynched Faulkner for writing this, except that Faulkner nails it so perfectly that even the most high falutinest fraud would get off on the revelation. Doesn’t a thief respect most the one who can catch him?


message 13: by Sherry (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:15PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sherry I'm glad to finally get your take on this, Robt. It really was something, wasn't it?

message 14: by Rob (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:38PM) (new)

Rob McMonigal Finally finished this. I was not impressed at all. Will do the longer review for my account, but I just saw nothing of value in this book. It's too cleverly constructed to read as a true pulp text and too knee-jerk and race-baiting to be a good piece of literature. The text I had said that Faulkner wrote this book to make money, and yeah, it sure seems like it.

The further I got, the more I was hoping for some part of this book to shine through. But instead, the only thing I can hang my hat on is that the attourney condemns the torching of Goodwin, and even that is so lightly covered as to feel like there's no proper sense of moral judgment.

Now, it's possible that was Faulker's point--there's no one good in this book--but for me, without *someone* to care about, I can't get into it. With the difficult structure on top, that makes for a book I just didn't like.

This is my third Faulker, I read and liked one, couldn't finish the second, and frankly hated the third. I'm glad to have had a chance to try again, which CR gave me, but I don't think I'll do any more of his books going forward.


message 15: by Jim (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:40PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim Tastes vary, I guess. Being a Faulkner fan, I am willing to give him a pass on a little pulp fiction.

I am not sure that I see the "race-baiting" angle. Considering that Faulkner lived most of his life in the Jim Crow south, I have always felt that Faulkner was relatively sympathetic to African-Americans even if he was reluctant to endorse the civil rights movement.

-- Jim in Oregon

message 16: by Rob (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:41PM) (new)

Rob McMonigal I actually should have clarified that while I don't think Faulkner himself is racist, I do think that he didn't balance the racial issues sufficiently to make up for what's being shown. There's not enough of a condemnation of the blatant racist assumptions by the characters for my taste, and so it leaves the book feeling like something that needed to be in there isn't. I tend to think this is because Faulkner just decided "a pox on all their houses" and made everyone unredeemable, and for me that was just unsatisfying. It also feels a bit like Faulkner wanted the book to sell, and if he had tried to balance it out more, that would not have happened. But again, I can see that as just being me.


message 17: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:41PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robert I read somewhere that this is the novel Faulkner wrote holding his nose. It is a black-as-night commentary on the deep South, that’s for sure. My perception of Horace Benbow is that he is the only stand again injustice in the story, as if mired to his eyeballs in a moral swamp. But I do see him as heroic in his attempt to save Lee Goodwin and given his compassion toward Ruby and her sickly child. That he ultimately fails and has no beneficial result from his efforts underscores Faulkner’s disgust with his local culture. I got off on the out-sized characters: Popeye, Miss Reba, Clarence Snopes, Temple Drake, Tommy. Great Southern characters.

According to Wikipedia the cartoon Popeye the Sailor first appeared in 1929, I believe the year Faulkner was working on Sanctuary, so I assume Popeye is a pop appropriation, or is that an appopriation?


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