The Bookhouse Boys discussion

Soldiers' Pay
This topic is about Soldiers' Pay
17 views
Soldiers' Pay

Comments Showing 1-50 of 65 (65 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

message 1: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (last edited Nov 01, 2011 07:44PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Reminder: we're switching up the format a bit. Soldiers' Pay will be discussed in full in a single podcast to be released 11/29. We'll have a few shorter, less in-depth chats in the meantime akin to the "Fun with Funiculars" mini-episode. Let us know how you like the new format.

Meanwhile, feel free to post as much as you want about Soldiers' Pay in this thread as you read!

I read the first section of Chapter 1 yesterday and found it to be unusually funny.

Pros: Faulkner had a great sense of humor, but it's not often I chuckle to myself when reading his stuff.

Cons: The section wears out its welcome a bit by the end. Also, in hovering between madcap and reality, it never quite achieves the punch it needs to make it truly effective in either direction.

Additional thoughts welcome and encouraged.


message 2: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (last edited Nov 01, 2011 01:47PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Section 2 was a little more successful than Section 1 for me, despite the fact that Faulkner's a bit all over the place with his experimentation.

Pros: Feels like we're heading in a definite direction now that we've got something of a "gang" all together. Great mix of descriptive details and dialogue that, more than any novel I've read in recent memory, makes this story "play out" in my head like a film.

Cons: Some of Faulkner's prose is a bit clunky and has to be read a few times just to suss out what he's talking about. (Not intentional obfuscation, editorial oversight.) Faulkner does some interesting experimenting with perspective and narrative, but he never quite achieves the consistency required to make it really work.

Overall, still very much enjoying this book. Though it pales in comparison to the brilliance of later works, it's got a great sense of humor, a few nicely drawn characters, and, now, a direction. All the booze and trains help as well!


message 3: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 498 comments Look at Dave with the sticky thread right at the top! Way to use your moderator powers for good, m'man!

Unable to procure Soldiers' Pay locally from either library or bookstore, so it'll be coming via mail order in a few days' time. Since I bailed on The Waves and Still Life, and wasn't here to do Absalom with y'all, I am determined to give this one a go.

And after that, my library will have a copy of the book, to go with its spanking new editions of Still Life, Affliction, Midaq Alley....


message 4: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Oh crap, did I make this thread a sticky? Whoops.

Good on you for donating books to the library, Jim. I should do more of that myself. Hope you find this book a little more appealing than the last couple, although, even just a little bit in, I can already tell it's far from Faulkner's best.

But hell, amateur Faulkner's still better than a lot of stuff, right?


message 5: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 498 comments Dave wrote: "...just a little bit in, I can already tell it's far from Faulkner's best."
Well then, I have an advantage over you guys.

I, um, I'm pretty sure I've never read any Faulkner.

So for me, any Faulkner should be good, right?

Right?


message 6: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (last edited Nov 01, 2011 07:44PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Yep!

In fact, Soldiers' Pay may be really good entry-level Faulkner. Though short on pyrotechnics, it's much more straightforward than a lot of his later work. A good way to get into some of his common themes, if not general use of language.


message 7: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
PS: I'm a numbskull sometimes and get the apostrophe in the title of the book wrong. Fixed.


message 8: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 4 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
I'm the one who stickied the thread. I did it when I moved the apostrophe to the end of "soldiers" so it matched the book cover. :S
I should have gone to the bookstore at lunch to get this book instead of going to the comic shop to get Athena a book that comes out tomorrow. D'oh!


message 9: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Jim wrote: "Dave wrote: "...just a little bit in, I can already tell it's far from Faulkner's best."
Well then, I have an advantage over you guys.

I, um, I'm pretty sure I've never read any Faulkner."


Not even "A Rose For Emily"? Nothing? What does the North Carolina educational system have against Faulkner?!

Jim, huge props to you for giving every (?) book we've done a shot. I probably would have bailed on a couple of them too if I wasn't going to be expected to talk about them. So we don't hold that against you. ;)

I haven't started Soliders' Pay yet. I'll mosey over to Powell's and see if they have a copy.


message 10: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Thanks for fixing the apostrophe in the thread title, Matt, or I may have never noticed my error. (It's not like I'm a professional editor or something...UGH.)

And really, the plural possessive makes a lot more sense once you start reading. Still, I've already read the book once and was confusing it with the singular possessive all this time, so who knows what's been going on in my head.

Jason: Confession. As much Faulkner as I've read, and as much as I love his stuff...I've never read "A Rose for Emily," either. Whoops!

(Maybe we'll have to put a book of Faulkner short stories in there one of these times...)


message 11: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Section 3 is a bit more personal and internal. Good point in the story for such things.

Pros: Some good background and character-building going on. Joe and Mrs. Powers are a pleasure to read about. It's also interesting to see Faulkner exploring the conflict of female identity in the early 20th Century, as in the line, "Don't you know my name is Mrs.?" Eliot's "The Wasteland" seems to be a big influence here.

Cons: This section tries to establish the still-forming bonds between these strangers more solidly, but doesn't quite succeed just yet. To me, they're still a bunch of drunks saying "I love you, man!" to each other at the end of a night out, and I won't quite buy it if these bonds hold strong when (if?) we finally see these characters sober.


message 12: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 498 comments Jason wrote: "What does the North Carolina educational system have against Faulkner?!"

Actually, it's the New York school system that has a grudge against Faulkner. I moved to the South in my 20's -- I have adopted y'all and a taste for collard greens, but am otherwise still fairly Yankee. I can tell you everything you want to know about the Iroquois, though.

Jason wrote: "Jim, huge props to you for giving every (?) book we've done a shot."

Thank you, Jason. For the record, I jumped in with Ragtime in May and have finished seven of the nine books since, with the exceptions of putting down Still Life with Woodpecker and The Waves unfinished.


message 13: by Jim (last edited Nov 02, 2011 10:36AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 498 comments Dave wrote: "PS: I'm a numbskull sometimes and get the apostrophe in the title of the book wrong."

Matt wrote: "I'm the one who stickied the thread. I did it when I moved the apostrophe to the end of "soldiers" so it matched the book cover."

Be it resolved on this Second day of November in the Year of Our... well, Someone's... Lord Two Thousand and Eleven, that the following spellings shall be accepted for the word Soldiers' for the duration of this thread:

Soldiers'
Soldiers
Soldier's
Soldiers's
Soldierses
Men-at-Arms'
Servicemen's
Belonging to Guys with Guns


Any amendments to this list should be submitted in the usual manner -- that is, by posting them below.


message 14: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 4 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Doughboys'


message 15: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
People Joe Buck thanks every 5 minutes for all they do for our country


message 16: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 498 comments Dave wrote: "People Joe Buck thanks every 5 minutes for all they do for our country"

That. Is fucking hilarious. Dave wins.


message 17: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Dave wrote: "People Joe Buck thanks every 5 minutes for all they do for our country"

Joe Buck the hustler?


message 18: by Jim (last edited Nov 02, 2011 01:49PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 498 comments Jason wrote: "Joe Buck the hustler?"

Ha! You did mention your love for Midnight Cowboy a while back, didn't you?

No, this would be Joe Buck the Fox Sports play-by-play guy. Dry as toast. And like most Fox on-air folks, he spends an inordinate amount of time lionizing our fightin' men and women.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. But moderation is key.


Observation: My sixth post on this page, and I don't yet have the goddamn book this thread is ostensibly about. Dave, keep us on track, will ya please?


message 19: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 4 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Jim wrote:"
No, this would be Joe Buck the Fox Sports play-by-play guy. Dry as toast. And l..."


A. I thought it was an obscure Midnight Cowboy reference, too.

B. I went back to the shop and bought Dragon Puncher Island for my daughter and The Frank Book for me to geek on while I pop pills and recover from surgery over the weekend. I really have to find a way to get to the bookstore this afternoon!


message 20: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 498 comments Matt wrote: "I thought it was an obscure Midnight Cowboy reference, too."

If by "obscure reference" you mean the name of the lead character in a classic Best Picture Oscar-winning movie, then yes. Yes it was. ;)
(Jason's gonna punch you so hard....)

Re: The Frank Book and Jim Woodring: I have Weathercraft somewhere in my massive Regina pile. I'll probably get to it before I turn, oh, sixty. If I were to try to list all my unread books on my Goodreads "to read" page, I fear I could crash the site.

Most importantly, this is the first I'm hearing of your surgery. Hope all goes well, and that you are furnished with excellent drugs.


message 21: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
I persuaded Heather to watch Midnight Cowboy recently...I don't think she liked it much. It was "weird".


message 22: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 4 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Jim wrote: "If by "obscure reference" you mean the name of the lead character in a classic Best Picture Oscar-winning movie, then yes...."
I meant that perhaps it was a reference to something obscure that the character did in the movie (not that the film or its characters are obscure...although I do think it's a terribly overrated movie, like, Scent of a Woman overrated.)

Thanks for the well-wishes. I've never had medical procedure that required going under before, so I'm a little nervous. Let's just say I'm looking forward to waking up tomorrow holding my wife's hand, after it's all done. Positive vibes much appreciated!


message 23: by Jason, Walking Allergen (last edited Nov 02, 2011 03:13PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Matt wrote: "Thanks for the well-wishes. I've never had medical procedure that required going under before, so I'm a little nervous."

Me neither, and I can sympathize with the nerves. Beats being awake for it, though!

I was going to be there to hold your hand when you came out of it, but if you prefer Rene, that's fine. Just fine.


message 24: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 4 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Jason wrote: "Me neither, and I can sympathize with the nerves. Beats being awake for it, though!

I was going to be there to hold your hand when you came out of it, but if you prefer Rene, that's fine. Just fine."

Rene can't be there. He has to drink wine in a striped shirt and beret, so I went with my number 2 choice, Renee. You were a very close #3, amigo.


message 25: by Jim (last edited Nov 02, 2011 03:38PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim | 498 comments Matt wrote: "Jim wrote: "I meant that perhaps it was a reference to something obscure that the character did in the movie."
Of course. I'm a dope.


Matt wrote: "Rene can't be there. He has to drink wine in a striped shirt and beret, so I went with my number 2 choice, Renee. You were a very close #3, amigo."
You slay me, Matthew. :D
Will be sending big karma your way tomorrow. Best of luck.


message 26: by Robert (new)

Robert (vernson) | 592 comments Matt wrote: "Jim wrote: "If by "obscure reference" you mean the name of the lead character in a classic Best Picture Oscar-winning movie, then yes...."
I meant that perhaps it was a reference to something obscu..."



Ooh the life of a prrof-reader! (See what I did there?)

Good luck on your procedure, sir, and you'll be better than ever!


message 27: by Jen (new)

Jen (jen_alluisi) | 73 comments Dave wrote: "Jason: Confession. As much Faulkner as I've read, and as much as I love his stuff...I've never read 'A Rose for Emily,' either. Whoops!"

I...I can't believe my husband has never read "A Rose for Emily." That was required reading in 10th grade for us...that year was positively full of books and stories that blew my developing young mind, and that was one of them.

Happy surgery, Matt! All will be well. I've had to go under twice before, and I turned out just fine :)


message 28: by Robert (new)

Robert (vernson) | 592 comments If this is confession time, I've never read ANY Faulkner.

Sounds like this is an appropriate opportunity.


message 29: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
As I settle into the novel, I more and more get the feeling that this is going to be a book of moments more than a satisfying whole. It's frankly trying to be too many things at once, which somewhat muddies the big picture.

It's also worth noting for first-timers that this novel is NOT representative of Faulkner's later work. Not saying this is bad, just very, very different. Those familiar with his stuff might be checking the name on the front cover by the time you reach Chapter 2.

Ch. 1, Sections 4 & 5: Faulkner's entertaining (I think) the darkly comic here. Some of his intention is unclear... there are moments that can only be satire, but there are just as many that appear to be genuine. I think that, with Lowe, he's simultaneously being honest about and poking fun at his own hurt feelings after narrowly missing WWI.

Everything in these sections wreaks of the Romantic. Wild declarations, strange reactions... people not acting or feeling quite like people. There's an element to it all that leads me to believe Faulkner's aware of this, though, that his tongue is pretty far in his cheek. Because it's more wryly than outlandishly funny, and because Faulkner's prose in this novel is -- no other way to put it, really -- highly amateurish, it could be very easy to take this book more seriously than it was perhaps intended.

Moving into Ch. 2, Sections 1 & 2, we suddenly take a left turn into Southern Gothic. In fact, Section 2 seems to anticipate the entire oeuvre of Tennessee Williams on its own (though it's nowhere near as artfully crafted). The crumbling, decaying South is a frequent theme in Faulkner's work, but is a bit oversold with all the references to Greek gods and mythology (and, specifically, in the overtly Dionysian Januarius Jones). It's still got a great sense of humor, but lacks subtlety in all the wrong places.

All that said... I've got a real damn soft spot for Southern Gothic, so I'm FLYING through this book. Even as I'm reading it I find it silly and overwrought and impossible to put down. I don't want to undersell the true moments of humor, either, which are often golden.


message 30: by Jason, Walking Allergen (last edited Nov 03, 2011 05:48PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Robert wrote: "If this is confession time, I've never read ANY Faulkner.

Sounds like this is an appropriate opportunity."


I hope it doesn't sour you on a writer who went on to do amazing things. Maybe give some of his short stories a try (Like the story "A Rose for Emily" that has been mentioned throughout this thread). Or skip ahead to The Sound and the Fury or As I Lay Dying. We'll be along eventually.

Or come along for the long haul; that would be cool, too. Just do so with the awareness that you won't be reading FAULKNER yet.


message 31: by Jason, Walking Allergen (last edited Nov 03, 2011 05:52PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
This is like old times, Dave, with all the notes. I'm not sure what to do with them so far. I'm avoiding them because I haven't started the book yet, and I don't want them coloring my perceptions, but I don't want you talking to yourself! I'm afraid if I read it this early I'll have forgotten 90% of it in three weeks.

Also: why did we skip A Marble Fawn? Is the goal to be selective or exhaustive?


message 32: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
I decided to skip Faulkner's poetry because we've been a novel-centric podcast thus far. Plus, it's even earlier work than Soldiers' Pay and not really anything all that special. There's a Faulkner quotation that I'll have to paraphrase, but it says something like, All writers try poetry; failing at that, they write short stories; failing at that, they become novelists. Even though he was being a bit wry there, I suspect that Faulkner largely considered himself a failed poet, although I don't think he ever lost his admiration for the art form.

Besides that, despite being in the public domain (as far as I know, anyway... it was published in 1924), The Marble Faun is kinda hard to find. Nothing on Project Gutenberg, and it's been most recently reprinted as part of some collection of random odds and ends. All I can guess is that there's some sort of odd copyright issue, although the real issue may simply be that the book is rare enough and inconsequential enough that no one's thought to get around to making it more readily available.


message 33: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
I wasn't even aware it was poetry. Think you made the right call there, Dave...


message 34: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (last edited Nov 03, 2011 07:08PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Finished up Ch. 2 with Sections 3 through 5 (all fairly short). The two sets of characters converge. Cecily Saunders is a fun character to follow around, for all of her shallowness. Maybe I like her best by this point because she's so easily able to get the goat (har har) of the despicable J. Jones.

The final moment--complete with a scream and a faint!--is pure Southern Gothic. Don't know whether I could possibly be having more fun with this book so far.


message 35: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Ch. 3, Sections 1-4. The writer in me is extraordinarily jealous of how easily Faulkner is able to introduce and manage distinct characters. So far, I count 11 distinct, named characters, with a few other bit characters thrown in besides. While none of them is particularly deep or complex, it's still a lot to juggle, and we can see glimpses of a masterful creative mind in its nascent stages.

Time, I think, to note the undercurrent of racial tension in the novel. I'm not expecting it to go anywhere necessarily, but did want to point it out because it's a frequent theme in Faulkner's work (as you might expect from history's most prominent documentarian of the early 20th Century South). Our white protagonists are often casually and openly racist, and Faulkner himself (as narrator) approaches African Americans from the same nearly anthropological level that he does women. It's interesting to see these early musings.

We finally see hints of what Faulkner will later become capable of in terms of language in Ch. 3, too. Physical descriptions are slowly beginning to become more complex and poetic, as with the line: "And above all brooded early April sweetly pregnant with noon," "leaving only the ghosts of young leaves," or "[T]he pursuing rain, foiled, whirled like cavalry with silver lances across the lawn." This is still a very straightforward narrative, but we can see a bit of the frustrated poet peeking through.

The story's continuing at a nice clip, and there are some very funny moments in there (Robert's conversation with Joe, for instance). The book feels like it's leveling out, at least in terms of voice. I do still wonder whether we saw enough of the connections between these people early on to justify whatever's coming, though.


message 36: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Ch. 3, Sections 5-8. A bunch of short scenes, but a lot of information about character. This novel very much has the pace and rhythm of a good 1950s film drama, maybe by Elia Kazan or Joseph Mankiewicz. I can see Emmy's speech in particular being delivered by some hysterical young Southern actress or other.

It occurs to me that, had Faulkner stuck to this style of writing, he may have sold a lot more books. This is fierce, interesting melodrama, easy to read and hard to put down. It also tackles issues of true humanity, giving it just enough of a literary quality that I can see Faulkner still being well-regarded as a novelist. For whatever reason, though, he pushed forward into the realm of true literary genius, and the differences between Soldiers' Pay and The Sound and the Fury (published only 3 years later!) are as startling as the differences between A Hard Days Night and Sgt. Pepper.


message 37: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Anyone have a different edition of the novel than the Liveright edition? The one with the human flag on the front?

If so, could you let me know whether Januarius Jones' quotation of Eliot in Ch. 3, Section 10 reads "La lune en grade aucune rancune" or "La lune ne..."? It's the former in my edition, which may be a typo, or it may be Faulkner jabbing at Jones (or just plain getting it wrong). Curious, though. Thanks for any help.


message 38: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
I am clearly addicted to this book....

Ch. 3, Sections 9-14. More quick scenes, the plot advances. Mahon, the subject of all the drama, seems to be in the book fairly infrequently and, even when he is, fairly vegetative. I think this is a masterstroke on Faulkner's part... it makes him something different to each character, even to the reader. (As Frederick Karl points out in the introduction to my edition, "Mahon" translates to "man" -- he represents soldiers returning from war, in toto.)

A lot of the comedic elements have taken a back seat to the drama, though the scene where Sis mistakes J. Jones for Mahon is kind of a hoot. It hasn't gotten overly serious, either... feels very light despite the serious subject matter, and I think the early comedy helps establish that lightness of tone.

So much was made of Lowe early that here at just about the halfway point I'm wondering when we'll see him again. He's surely got to come back at some point. This book reminds me of Midaq Alley a bit in the way that it's an ensemble piece with no true protagonist... Mahon plays the part that the Alley did in that book, merely the thing that brings these disparate people together.

Man, at this rate I'll be done with the book by this time next week. I keep trying to slow myself down, but it ain't working! :)


message 39: by Robert (new)

Robert (vernson) | 592 comments Dave wrote: "Anyone have a different edition of the novel than the Liveright edition? The one with the human flag on the front?

If so, could you let me know whether Januarius Jones' quotation of Eliot in Ch. 3..."



My edition also uses, "en". So I hope this helps.


message 40: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (last edited Nov 05, 2011 08:31PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
That does help, Robert, thanks. That's a small enough discrepancy that I think it was probably just an error on Faulkner's part more so than him calling attention to Jones' being off in his quotation.


message 41: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Ch. 4, Sections 1-2. Probably a good time to once again address issues of gender and race. As I said earlier, Faulkner's observations on women and African Americans aren't particularly insightful in this novel; are, in fact, fairly stereotypical. I might argue, though, that this is among Faulkner's most observational novels, and isn't particularly insightful about anything.

Not to make excuses, but I did want to point out early that Faulkner's observations about African Americans, though stereotypical, aren't at least hateful... the Klan don't make an heroic entrance, all blacks aren't sent to Hell while the whites go to Heaven, etc. This isn't to pat him on the back by any means, but the point I'm making is that I read this as the racism of inexperience more than the racism of gnarled hatred. It's important to note at this stage in his career because it opens us up to some of the great and rounded black characters he'll create in later work.

Faulkner's observations on women here are another matter, and frankly surprise me a bit. He created so many wonderful, flawed, and rounded female characters over the years -- and even in this book to a degree with Cecily Saunders and Margaret Powers -- that the overall generalizations about cattiness and gossiping feel like trite attempts at humor and, ultimately, out of place.

Again, not to make excuses, but Faulkner's own early heartbreak (the marrying of his young obsession Estelle Oldham to another man) probably informs his attitude quite a bit. It should be noted that, after Oldham's first marriage fell apart, she and Faulkner married in 1929 -- right around the time that The Sound and the Fury introduced Caddy Compson and Dilsey Gibson.

So, those are my thoughts, for what they're worth. I mostly bring it up because I'm hoping it won't become a point on which we dwell overly... there are offensive language and sentiments in this novel, to be sure, but it's important to keep in mind that Faulkner was downright progressive here for the Mississippi of the 1920s. It's a good context to keep in mind for whenever we move forward into deeper, richer characterizations.


message 42: by Jason, Walking Allergen (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Dave wrote: "Great mix of descriptive details and dialogue that, more than any novel I've read in recent memory, makes this story "play out" in my head like a film."

Definitely. This felt more like "The Big Sleep" Faulkner than any Faulkner I've read before.


message 43: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Ch. 4, Sections 3-7. I managed to slow myself a bit, but only slightly. Going to attempt a few quick posts throughout the day until I catch up.

Lowe's arc, somewhat refreshingly, is taking place "off camera"... we see absence making his heart not grow fonder as his letters get more and more disinterested.

Loved the scene where Margaret and Joe made an unwitting enemy of Robert Saunders. So childish, so perfect. Robert's never quite sure what to do with it, either, what it all means. Meanwhile, Margaret gives us her back story, which, to be honest, I found a bit unnecessary... the one or two lines we got about it early said just as much as these several pages.

As we move on with the story, I hope we haven't lost the thread of Emmy. I think she's one of the more interesting characters here. The cast may be a little TOO large for everything Faulkner wants to accomplish, but damn if I'm ready to cut a single one of them.

The final scene is a weird combination of funny, racist, and touching, all three being found in Loosh and Callie's visit to Donald. Faulkner doesn't dig too deep here, but we can see glimpses of the strange relationship between whites and blacks in the South of the early 20th century. In Faulkner's work, these relationships tend to be professionally based but very personal as well; Callie is far more affectionate here to Donald than to her own son. Unfortunately, I get the feeling this may be the only time we see them in the novel.


message 44: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Chapter 5. This book is fascinating. We can almost see Faulkner growing as an artist with each new chapter. This one probably comes a bit too late in the narrative, and Faulkner asks us to bite on one hell of a big coincidence, but this is the first time we see Faulkner attempt intentional obfuscation of the plot, significant POV shifts, or toying with the timeline.

This chapter also, curiously, introduces a heavy element of androgyny to the story. I say "curiously" because this element is introduced to two already existing characters, Cecily and Januarius, almost from nowhere (well, maybe it's been hinted at enough in the former's case with all the comparisons to her father). That the boyish Cecily is the object of so many men's affection--hell, obsession--is a really interesting detail.

In the case of (yellow) Jones, he (yellowly) has always been (yellow) doughy and effeminate in his (yellow) mannerisms, but his being (yellowly) explicitly compared to a woman in this and the opening sections of Chapter 6 was a surprise to me (yellow).

As a final note, I'm kinda surprised that George Farr continues to play so important a part in this book. Feels more like Faulkner exploring his own wounded feelings than telling an interesting story in those passages.


message 45: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (last edited Nov 12, 2011 04:34AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Ch. 6, Sections 1-2. Southern Gothic is in full effect here, particularly in the conversation between Cecily and Jones. Enjoyable, but the thing I found the most of note was Faulkner's use of "the young Robert Saunders" to mean his 65 year-old grandfather at one point. This is something Faulkner frequently did. The old South in particular was filled (and still is) with Juniors and "the IIIs" and "the IVs." Faulkner will use this in The Sound and the Fury with (IIRC) four different Quentin Compsons and Jason Compsons. So, something to watch out for, because if you aren't vigilant it can become confusing quickly.


message 46: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
It occurred to me that, despite my affection for Southern Gothic, I've never really studied it to find out its roots and origins. Surprise surprise, Faulkner is a key player in the movement, and Soldiers' Pay may even be considered the first true Southern Gothic.

I found the following on the Southern Gothic wiki page: "Southern Gothic is a subgenre of Gothic fiction unique to American literature that takes place exclusively in the American South. It resembles its parent genre in that it relies on supernatural, ironic, or unusual events to guide the plot. It is unlike its parent genre in that it uses these tools not solely for the sake of suspense, but to explore social issues and reveal the cultural character of the American South. The southern Gothic style is one that employs the use of macabre, ironic events to examine the values of the American south."

We've already read a bit of Southern Gothic with McCullers' The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and then of course Jason's mentioned his favorite writer being Flannery O'Connor a number of times. Despite my affection for Faulkner, though, I somehow never quite connected him so heavily to the movement... maybe because his modernist experimentation is the magpie that usually catches my attention first. It's certainly very apparent in this novel, though. I'm very interested now to continue with this thread in future Faulkner works, and to maybe try to squeeze in a few other Southern Gothic writers in the meanwhile for the sake of comparison.


message 47: by Jason, Walking Allergen (last edited Nov 12, 2011 04:58PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jason | 1166 comments Mod
Dave wrote: "Finished up Ch. 2 with Sections 3 through 5 (all fairly short). The two sets of characters converge. Cecily Saunders is a fun character to follow around, for all of her shallowness. Maybe I like her best by this point because she's so easily able to get the goat (har har) of the despicable J. Jones.

I'm glad for you, because I'm having very little fun at all. Jones is, indeed, despicable, but he distinguishes himself very little so far from every other misogynist bully or fainting flower in this book. I need some depth to these characters and I need it quick.

Faulkner had talent already, that's evident, but he must have grown up a LOT in the next five to ten years.

Hmm, that was quick. Chapter 3 is a considerable improvement.


message 48: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (last edited Nov 13, 2011 06:04AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Jason wrote: "Faulkner had talent already, that's evident, but he must have grown up a LOT in the next five to ten years."

Indeed he did. As you note in your next line, we can see him growing up practically throughout the writing of this book, or at least parts of it. Faulkner at this point is the classic young writer with talent who doesn't quite yet have much to talk about. It's less the crafting of this novel that feels amateurish (though there's some of that as well) than his general approach to his subject matter through most of it.

It kinda reminds me in a way of my experience with Gore Vidal's first novel, Williwaw. I did a similar "I'll read everything!" project with Vidal some years back, and that book, written when Vidal was 19, took me aback. Not bad for a 19-year-old kid, I guess, but definitely not what I'd come to expect from the author of Burr or Myra Breckenridge. Being a humanizer of idols and legends himself, I think Vidal would appreciate the exercise in examining both his and Faulkner's work "warts and all."

Ch. 6, Sections 3-5. After all the experimentation in Ch. 5, this dives back in to the soap opera plot. I was surprised by the fact that the not only doughy but effete Januarius acquitted himself so well physically against All-American Boy George Farr. I'd have thought he'd have to outwit the guy to overcome him.

And, of course, the classic soap opera twist, as Cecily decides to marry Donald after all in hopes of keeping her honor intact. I like inserting the grotesque into this scenario... not only is the cuckolded husband/father-to-be unaware, he's blind and mentally absent. Pretty much just a warm body in a tux by this point, and I think that's Faulkner winking at us.


message 49: by Matt, I am the Great Went. (new) - rated it 4 stars

Matt | 1517 comments Mod
Just got started yesterday and am beginning chapter II. The whole train opening felt like Joseph Heller writing for a Marx Brothers' play that's a tribute to Samuel Beckett.


message 50: by Dave Alluisi, Evolution of the Arm (last edited Nov 16, 2011 01:15PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dave Alluisi | 1047 comments Mod
Chs. 7 and 8. A lot happens in these two chapters in Faulkner's soapy plot, but the thing I'm mostly taking from them is a comparison with TS Eliot's "The Waste Land." Most of the novel has taken place in April, 1919; as April becomes May, though (a point brought up several times), it's hard not to think of "The Waste Land"'s opening lines:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.


or maybe

'My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.
'Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.
'What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?
'I never know what you are thinking. Think.'


or, especially, as it's applicable to any number of scenes in the novel,

The time is now propitious, as he guesses,
The meal is ended, she is bored and tired,
Endeavours to engage her in caresses
Which still are unreproved, if undesired.
Flushed and decided, he assaults at once;
Exploring hands encounter no defence;
His vanity requires no response,
And makes a welcome of indifference.


or, finally (uniting the themes of the last 3 books, by my count),

He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience


And all of that's to say nothing of the several loose women, soldiers, the woman who "drew her long black hair out tight," frequent rain/storming, and wild (Lovecraftian?) chanting:

Weialala leia
Wallala leialala
....
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
Shantih shantih shantih


A lot of common postwar themes being explored here. In light of these grim themes, Faulkner's light humor is particularly welcome in Soldiers' Pay, I think. He wasn't yet half the craftsman that Eliot was, but the influence is undeniable.


« previous 1
back to top