East Bay Book Club Message Board › Meeting Recap: August 2012 Classic Book Discussion (Light in August by Willi
Union City, CA
This book meeting had 13 people, but that didn't stop everyone from having yet another good book discussion.
Of the facts about the author that club member Kristin presented, one was quite a surprise: the fact that William Faulkner did not sell well in the United States but was huge in Europe, especially France. It wasn't clear why, but it's certainly a good topic for Faulkner fans to ponder on. Perhaps it's the author's stream of consciousness writing style. Who knows?
Some comments about Faulkner's writing style:
- It may slow down the coming together of plot and character elements. Things may be said in a circuitous way. Sometimes, parts seem just sloppy.
- The story jumps from one character's perspective to another and assumes only information that the character knows. Hence, apparent contradictions aren't really a problem.
- Stream of consciousness makes plot a bit hard to follow because of frequent changes in point of view, even as ideas are starting to be developed.
Much of the discussion was devoted to specific characters in the novel, including Joe Christmas, Lena Grove, and Reverend Hightower. Regarding Lena, the character didn't seem to have shame and seems like an entity, not like a real person. With Hightower, Faulkner's negative attitude towards religion shows through this character, namely the topic of hypocrisy. For Joe Christmas, there were comments about how this character has violent relationships with women because he never developed human connections growing up, given the turmoil of his childhood. There was also discussion about whether a particular scene of death was Christmas's responsiblity or Joe Brown's.
Interestingly enough, the book seemed to have "coincidental" Biblical references. For example, the novel features 66 characters, equal to the number of books in the Bible. There's also Christmas as a surname for one character and a bit of debate about which character is the Madonna. Whether Faulkner intended this was not clear, but again, it's something to think about.
Overall, the final thoughts of the group were mixed. Some people thought the book was grim and was written in a confusing style. Others enjoyed how rich and layered the book is and enjoyed it. It's what you'd expect at any book meeting: a variety of opinions. And remember, it doesn't matter if you like or dislike the book. The only thing I hope for is that you enjoy the discussion.
Lastly, I mentioned in the meeting that I'm pondering the idea of a change for next year: having four classic book discussions three months apart, instead of three classic books four months apart as we are doing now. I think I might do it, because every book meeting has been fun, and I do have time to spare to throw in another book meeting.
With that, thanks to everyone who attended the meeting. Without you, where would the East Bay Book Club be? :-)