Wild Palms

ISBN: 0099282925
ISBN 13: 9780099282921
By: William Faulkner

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About this book

'Between grief and nothing I will take grief'In New Orleans in 1937, a man and woman embark on a headlong flight into the wilderness of illicit passion, fleeing her husband and the temptations of respectability. In Mississippi ten years earlier, a convict sets forth across a flooded river, risking his one chance at freedom to rescue a pregnant woman. From these separate stories Faulkner composes a symphony of deliverance and damnation, survival and self-sacrifice, a novel in which elemental danger is juxtaposed with fatal injuries of the spirit.

Reader's Thoughts


I’ve come to find that I tend to read as two different people, the writer and the reader. What each of these personalities likes and appreciates in a novel can be completely different. The reader is looking for plot and character, a fun story with interesting characters that pulls me into the book and prevents me from putting it down. The writer is looking for technique and word use, a well structured sentence or paragraph with deep description and intriguing word choice that leaves me in awe. In a few very rare occasions there is a novel that appeals to both the reader and the writer, but usually if the reader is enthralled the writer isn’t all that impressed and if the writer is in awe the reader is left with a headache. There is no doubt that William Faulkner is an author that appeals solely to the writer in me because the reader struggled with every minute I spent with Wild Palms. It was obvious from the first page that Faulkner was an author writing on a different plane then most I am use to reading. His style is very stream of conscience, with long complicated sentences and flowery word choice. One can’t breeze through a Faulkner sentence. You need to take it slowly, soaking in every word and punctuation, because it won’t end where it started, nor will the journey be a straight line. In Wild Palms, he seems to have thrown a parenthesis into every sentence, breaking the flow of thought to jump around in time and story. It’s a technique that makes the novel hard to read and enjoy, but one that forces you to read closely and pay attention to every thing that occurs. It’s something the writer in me can’t help but admire. Reading someone like Faulkner as a writer can prove to be a slightly depressing exercise, because I know I will never be able to write a story with such a sense of art. I’ll admit, I’m far from a fan of the stream of conscience style of story telling, yet I found Wild Palms to have more for the reader in me then anything written by Virginia Wolfe. As much as Faulkner makes you work, there is something more accessible in this novel then I have found in most stream of conscience stories. It may have been painful, and it may be a while before I choose to tackle another Faulkner novel, but nothing in Wild Palms made me swear off his work. It certainly isn’t for the faint of heart, but there are enough enjoyable moments to give him another try. If you are looking for light fun fare, Faulkner will never be for you, but if you are looking for a challenge, a story that you may admire more then enjoy, give Wild Palms a try.

Luciano Losiggio

Dos historias. Ambas sobre el amor y las mujeres. Una sobre cómo lo valen, a pesar del dolor, el sufrimiento y los quilombos. La otra sobre cómo no. Todo contado por Faulkner. Traducido por Borges.


It wouldn't be fair to give this a 3, so I've gone for a 4. I'm stingy with my stars (precisely for you, dear reader) because I find little value in reviewers who give everything a 5.Wild Palms lies somewhere between good and brilliant. There's a nice amount to think about, mainly a contrarian relationship between an ill-starred couple trying to be together against the odds, in the face of a society in which the odds are already stacked against them - even without their unconventional choices. They deliberately keep the flame of their love burning hot with a series of decisions that are destructive of the things that could have provided a more conventional, sustained, and mundane existence, and that ultimately are self-destructive, too.And that's only half the story. The other (interwoven) story has a wonderful scene describing a fight with an alligator that would make the book worth reading even if it had no other remarkable qualities. Here's a link to a fragment of the description http://bit.ly/dgO9Rk

Lynn Fredericks

This is one of favorites. It requires great focus to read, but that may be one of its good qualities. In an age that prides itself on speed and efficiency, here is something that should be savored and experienced thoroughly, without rush. If I forget thee Jerusalem, is the tittle Faulkner wanted for thees two separate but subtly entwined tales. The two tales have subtly kindred themes, but share hardly any outward similarities and no connections of plot or character. I especially love the Wild Palms story; the story of a young couple trying to live on love alone, and the sorrow of loss. The tragicomic tale of the enduring convict, sounds like a story form the bible. Each story helps illuminate the other. I feel that this beautifully written work is the type of story that one could read several times, each time seeing something new, like traveling to a distant country.

Samuel Breed

** spoiler alert ** Severely Overlooked and Brilliant!The Wild Palms: [If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem] is one of my favorite books ever written. Combining elements of noir with pioneering modernist techniques, it distills the best out of Faulkner. The following are excerpts from papers I've written about The Wild Palms. From "A Collage of Collision: The Use of Montage in The Wild Palms [If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem] and The Sound and the Fury"[...]Ten years and six novels later, Faulkner’s ability to create play within structure is fully realized with the publication of The Wild Palms [If…Jerusalem], a novel whose structure plays as much of a role as the content of the text itself. Composed as two novellas, “Wild Palms” and “Old Man,” presented in alternating chapters, The Wild Palms [If…Jerusalem] demonstrates what only was hinted at in the dialectic structure of The Sound and the Fury. The power behind the structure of The Wild Palms [If…Jerusalem] is the synthesis of themes and tone that does not exist when presented differently. Both memorable and compelling novellas in their own right, “Wild Palms” and “Old Man” tell two completely separate stories fastened together by their theme of the surrender, but reach startlingly different conclusions. Written in the order that appears in the corrected text and originally titled If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem, the two were meant to be inseparable, but have both been published independently of one another. The stories set of a series of oppositions while remaining faithful to the theme and their synthesis was meant to be explained by the original title. Unfortunately due to a disagreement with his publish and the desire to see the work publish, Faulkner settled on the title The Wild Palms for the novel—a title which has recently been appended with the original. The differences of the two components reveals itself firstly through differences in each section’s pace. Both novellas begin with a summons and are narrated in the past tense, but that’s where the similarities between the first two chapters begins to fall off. The first scene of “Wild Palms” is taken out of chronological order from the rest of the story, ending with a cliffhanger that is not returned to until its final act, while “Old Man” opens with two unnamed convicts talking about how the ended up where they are. “Old Man” is narrated by its protagonist, the tall convict, who remains detached from the narrative throughout. The narrator of “Wild Palms” is not as easily defined however. Ostensibly, the story is also narrated by its protagonist, Harry Wilbourne, but Harry’s involvement within the narrative itself makes the issue more complex than a simple past tense narration would normally be. Ultimately, “Wild Palms” is more like a stream-of-consciousness reflection on the events of the story, as remembered by Harry. Thusly, “Wild Palms” lends itself to be more frantic and emotional while “Old Man” remains slow and methodical. This dichotomy of tension and release is the fuel for the novel’s complex use of the dialectical montage.The use of montage in The Wild Palms [If…Jerusalem] further extends itself into the character development of the two protagonists. Harry and the tall convict represent the two extremes of kept men: Harry is bound to Charlotte by his intense feelings towards her, and pushes himself through unpleasant and undesirable situations to keep Charlotte, eventually compromising his own ethics in order to do so; the tall convict is bound to the woman by nothing other than his own sense of duty to someone in trouble, and though their relationship is largely silent, he protects her and her newborn child without objection. And two both admit at separate points in their narrative that they are bound to forces beyond their control. For Harry, he describes his love for Charlotte and her saving him from solitude and virginity as hinging on “one single fluxive Yes out of the terror in which you surrender volition[…]” (The Wild Palms [If…Jerusalem] 117). Harry’s passion for Charlotte is almost incommunicable, something that’s wrapped around him to which he is inexplicably bound. Similarly, the river and the woman are bound, inescapably to the tall convict:“It merely seemed to him that he had accidentally been caught in a situation in which time and environment, not himself, was mesmerized; he was being toyed with by a current of water going nowhere […] and in the meantime it did not much matter just what he did or did not do” (The Wild Palms [If…Jerusalem] 124-25).Harry and the tall convict are both in circumstances of which they have no control, but they differ in their need for an explanation. The tall convict seems to not need one; drifting in the swell of the pregnant river, only thinking about what action must be performed presently. However, Harry feels that he must communicate and analyze what has happened to him, turning his mind away from the actions he must take to maintain it. [...]Both men are eventually sentenced to serve time at the state penitentiary at Parchman, Harry for the death of Charlotte due to his botched abortion, and the tall convict for not returning sooner. Again, both outcomes are placed together in a dialectical montage, leaving the synthesis to the reader. Harry’s sentence of fifty years and his acceptance of that with his final statement of “between grief and nothing, I’ll take grief,” can be viewed as his acknowledgement of Charlotte as an ineluctable force (The Wild Palms [If…Jerusalem] 273). Harry sees his fifty years as somewhat of a favor, it allows him the time to play back the events of his life with Charlotte, knowing his mistakes, but not regretting his experience. On the other hand, the tall convict’s resignation that the events during the flood possibly “not even worth talking about,” demonstrate his nihilistic outlook—something possibly created by his years spent comfortably institutionalized (The Wild Palms [If…Jerusalem] 280). He fails to see the injustice of his sentence, and the two differing endings make for an effect that is hard to put your finger on.This disaffecting ending is possibly best summarized by Faulkner’s original title of If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem, a line from Psalm 137 about the importance of remembering Jerusalem while in captivity. The purpose of this title was to focus the logic and justice of the book, inasmuch that it is your duty to not forget about Jerusalem, even in times of great suffering. The synthesis of the montage is then embedded in the title, along with an explanation of the endings: Harry’s decision to remember “Jerusalem” (in his case Charlotte) becomes the right one, while the tall convict choice to forget becomes the wrong one. Only through the use of montage does the theme of The Wild Palms [If…Jerusalem] truly emerge, and each novella is unquestionably enhanced by their relative juxtaposition.By using montage along with omission and repetition, Faulkner was able to craft novels that contain content that extends beyond their textual limitations. His early problems of overwriting were solved when he discovered that the reader ultimately does not need to have every detail explained in drawn-out sections of dry prose. By forcing the reader to make assumptions to have a full grasp on the content of a particular novel with the use of dialectical montage, he unlocked what is considered a pillar of modernist literature. Instead allowing arcane references and complex symbolism to render his books unreadable, he created a canon of literature that was popular with scholars as well non-academics. The essential principle behind montage in film, is that if an audience is exposed to the convention enough times, they gain the ability to make jumps in thought without having to be told “the man is hungry.” Whether or not Faulkner was familiar with the work of Kuleshov and Eisenstein before he wrote The Wild Palms [If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem] ultimately becomes irrelevant because of his understanding of the mechanics and purpose of montage in literature.[...]From "A General Introduction to the Works of William Faulkner"[...]Faulkner’s return to a more commercially appealing novel and the best example of the influence of film theory is The Wild Palms [If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem]. The novel alternate chapters between two seemingly unrelated stories “Wild Palms” and “Old Man” (both have subsequently been published independently of one another, despite being composed in the order and style of the original text). The Wild Palms [If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem] is most notable for its use of dialectical montage in its structure. By opposing the two novellas, a series of opposites is established which create symbolism and meaning not present when separated. This is perhaps the most obvious example of Faulkner’s desire to have structure directly influence content, and continues the exploration of darker subject matter and subjective justice. [...]


I’m not sure where to begin when talking about The Wild Palms. Perhaps by clarifying that The Wild Palms is the publisher’s chosen name for If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem, Faulkner’s preferred title, and that it is also one of two intertwined stories in the book published under that title. A friend insisted that I read it, that it would probably become my new favorite book, but that I also might want to throw it against a wall when I finished. As usual, he was annoyingly right.The Wild Palms was my first Faulkner, despite my degree in English and my two Southern-born-and-educated advisers and my proclivity for mid-century male authors (see also: Hemingway, Durrell, Greene). As an educated and enlightened woman in this day and age, I know that I should have strong feelings about the rampant (perceived or actual) misogyny in the works of these authors. I know. Let’s just set that aside for now because you know what? I don’t want to hear it. This isn’t about what I should think or feel. It is about what I am or did or do think or feel.And that was completely devastated. I started the book on a rainy Friday night when Rachel and I wanted to be alone together, her at one end of the living room with video games and the dog, me curled up with my book and a glass of wine and the cool breeze. I was leaving Ann Arbor in four days, and my copy was checked out from the library, adding an extra urgency to the read. I went to bed early, woke early, and finished the first 70 pages by 7am, turning back into my pillow for a good, wrenching cry.“It doesn’t die; you’re the one that dies. It’s like the ocean: if you’re no good, if you begin to make a bad smell in it, it just spews you up somewhere to die. You die anyway, but I had rather drown in the ocean than be urped up onto a strip of dead beach and be dried away by the sun into a little foul smear with no name to it, just This Was for an epitaph.”I had things I needed to do – it was my last weekend in town – but I spent part of Saturday morning walking around in a daze, the mood heightened by the fine mist and the fact that I forgot my wallet at home, thus preventing me from buying coffee until far too late in the day for me to be actually functional. I felt like that U2 song whose video provided one of my earliest impressions of alternative music and memories of MTV from a summer visit to my grandparents, when I would sneak downstairs while they napped to watch cable in Grandpa’s huge naugahyde chair. The hugeness of the chair and the significance of the video have both diminished over time, as will, I suspect, the memory of the numbness of that morning, though there have been other mornings like it that have stuck with me for years and years.“It’s what we have come to work for, got into the habit of working for before we knew it, almost waited too late before we found it out.”In the titular story, a couple turns their back on all of the things society tells us to value – children, careers, friends, stability – for love, for love only, for love always.“Listen: it’s got to be all honeymoon, always. Either heaven, or hell: no comfortable safe peaceful purgatory between for you and me to wait in until good behavior or forbearance or shame or repentance overtakes us.”Do I even need to tell you that there can’t possibly be a happy ending? “That story ends very badly for all involved, you know.” “Don’t all the good ones?” And then there’s this, where I am right now, drinking bourbon in the back room of my new apartment in Pilsen, listening to the whistle of trains in the distance, scanning for the moon against the night sky.“You must do it in solitude and you can bear just so much solitude and stil live, like electricity. And for this one or two seconds you will be absolutely alone: not before you were and not after you are not, because you are never alone then; in either case, you are secure and companioned in a myriad and inextricable anonymity: in the one, dust from dust; in the other, seething worms to seething worms.”The theorists would tell me that there is no meaning outside the text. The theorists would tell me that my reading is contextually bound. Most of the time I feel like the theorists are full of shit, but this one time, I’ll buy it. I’ll buy it because this story resonated with me in ways I didn’t anticipate. Because I recognized myself, my experience, my fears and desires in both the normalcy the couple fled, and the recklessness with which they embraced the impossible. Because I was thankful for the (slight) reprieve offered by Old Man, the story told in alternating chapters – of a convict facing similarly inexorable though completely different circumstances, choices, and actions. Because I was thankful to finish the book on a flight back from DC, surrounded on all sides by people, unable to completely lose my shit as I would have otherwise. Because I was thankful to finish the book at the end of the flight and on the eve of two extremely long, extremely draining days when I wouldn’t have time to read anything else, allowing the book to rest in my mind and on my heart in the same way that you might savor the first taste of something amazing, in the way that a first (or last) kiss lingers on your lips long after the physical sensation has passed into memory.“Because if memory exists outside of the flesh it wont be memory because it wont know what it remembers so when she became not then half of memory became not and if I become not then all of remembering will cease to be. – Yes he thought Between grief and nothing I will take grief.”This is the fourth of at least 10 books that I plan to read in the next year for my friend Mark’s 2/3 Challenge.


Des trajectoires individuelles qui vont jusqu'au bout de leur logique anti-concessive, de leur morale exclusive, le tout dans une pratique de l'entrelacement des récits. Et cela finit sans point final par un "les femmes. Font chier!" C'est dramatique mais en même temps l'écriture ne nous pousse pas à l'identification narrative ; pas davantage que nous ne partageons le flux de pensée des protagonistes. L'écriture est accidentée et si peu fluide que des passages entiers de Faulkner ne constituent même pas une petite musique intérieure. Du bruit de fond assez systématique. J'ai eu du mal à y entrer.


The continuing saga of my traipsing (at long last) through the genius of Fualkner.What carries this book the most is the imagery - in here are some of the most mesmerizing descriptions of landscape (possibly some of the most amazing known to human history). The description of a land covered in flood is awe-inspiring, to both character and reader alike. In this one we have two separate narratives that revolve on love and the nature of man and woman with a young doctor who falls in love with a married woman (his first chance to fall in love in his life) and a convict who gets separated from his guard in a flood and comes across a pregnant woman sitting in a tree. Here we find the shock of emotion that gets laid upon reticent Faulknerian men, and of course the deep psychologies of devotion and sacrifice and the need to sacrifice. I am only reticent to offer 5 stars on this because the escaped convict line simply didn't compel me as much--sorry to make reference to a dim book in comparison, but Cold Mountain held me back in the same way, that when two storylines are entwined, one runs the risk of the paler dragging down the whole effort. Cold Mountain did that in spades, and while the lesser storyline only dragged this down a bit, I did feel nonetheless dragged down and tempted all too often to skip. Sorry, Bill.


Two stories, one tragic and one darkly comic, alternate in successive chapters, five for each, in this influential experimental novel. The stories never touch, and probably occur in different years, though they both end in southern Mississippi. The juxtaposition of two stories related only obliquely in theme continues to have resonance in literature and film up to the present day.The comic story covers only a few months in the life of a convict who escapes while out doing relief work during a flood of the Mississippi River, probably the one of 1927. The tragedy takes place over several years during which two illicit lovers flee New Orleans and travel all over the country before coming to rest, with tragic consequences, on the Gulf Shore of southern Mississippi, probably some time in the '30's, but definitely not at a time of a river flood.The convict's accidental meeting of a woman about to have a baby, and his setting up house with her, though only briefly, is juxtaposed against the story of a married woman's passion for a young doctor, and their fleeing her husband and children in order to be together, and existential need and desire that neither of them can explain. The themes bounce off of each other in comic and tragic turns. IT's quite an amazing story, outside of Faulkner's usual Yoknapatawphaw County universe.

Gabriela Solis

Aún no decido si me gusta William Faulkner. Me explico: amo muchísimo algunos de sus cuentos, detesté As I Lay Dying y creo que era demasiado joven cuando intenté acercarme a The Sound and the Fury, al menos lo suficiente como para que su complejidad acabara con mi intención de terminarlo. Hace un par de días comencé a leer The Wild Palms y, hasta ahora, va anotando puntos a favor de Faulkner (cómo si los necesitara). El libro en realidad son dos novelas que se leen intercaladas: Las palmeras salvajes y El viejo. La premisa de la primera es interesante por extraña: una pareja obstinada en no ser marido y mujer, en no ser la pareja tradicional y rutinaria, en no tener un trabajo o vivienda estables: en escapar con todas sus fuerzas de la “decencia”. Eso no tendría mucho de original si los amantes fueran presa de una pasión desbordada y torrencial; sin embargo, Harry y Carlota ni siquiera parecen tenerse afecto. Es como si estuvieran juntos cumpliendo condenas personales autoimpuestas y el otro fuera una de ellas o una prueba para el estoicismo de cada uno. Algo que me ha sorprendido profundamente es la capacidad de Faulkner para describir con precisión aspectos de lo femenino que toda la humanidad podría reconocer pero que son difíciles de nombrar. Eso es lo que hace un gran escritor: ponerle palabras a lo etéreo. No debería sorprenderme, pero confieso estar gozando con este asombro.Acá una muestra:“Volvió antes del mediodía, él dormía todavía; ella se sentó en el borde de la cama, con la mano metida en el pelo de él haciéndole rodar la cabeza por la almohada para despertarlo, con el abrigo puesto y el sombrero echado atrás, mirándolo con esa grave profundidad amarilla, que ahora lo hacía meditar en esa eficacia de las mujeres para la mecánica, para la instalación de la convivencia. Ni economía, ni buena administración, sino algo más profundo que (toda su raza) emplea con instinto infalible, una relación del todo inconsciente para el tipo y la naturaleza del socio masculino y la situación, o la fría tacañería de la celebrada granja de Vermont o la extravagancia fantástica de las coristas mantenidas de Broadway, sin cuidado por el valor intrínseco del dinero que ahorran o dilapidan y con poco más cuidado o pena por la chuchería que adquieren o que les falta, usando la presencia y la ausencia de joyas o de cuenta corriente, como peones en un juego de ajedrez, cuyo premio no es la seguridad sino la decencia en el medio en que viven, sometiendo el clandestino nido de amor a un orden y un esquema…. Pensó: No las atrae lo romántico del amor ilícito, ni el concepto apasionado de dos almas perdidas, condenadas, juzgadas y aisladas para siempre contra el mundo y Dios, ni lo irrevocable que arrastra a los hombres; es porque ven en el amor ilícito un desafío, porque tienen un irresistible deseo (idéntico a la convicción de que son capaces, cada una de ellas, de manejar con éxito una casa de pensión) de hacer respetable el amor ilícito, de tomar al mismo don Juan y reducir los licenciosos rulos que las sedujeron al aparente decoro del puchero de cada día y de los trenes suburbanos”.


** spoiler alert ** I struggled through the majority of this book. That's not to say that I didn't admire and relish the challenge of reading the long, rambling and complex sentences. I actually liked this aspect of the style of the novel. I also appreciated the over-riding themes contrasting between 'Old Man' and 'The Wild Palms'; it definitely gives you plenty to chew on.What I didn't like was how blatant Faulkner was about these themes and ideas. There was something which grated on me in the way he would employ at the same time vagueness and uncertainty (i.e. in 'The Wild Palms', what Harry and Charlotte had exactly done, why she was calling him Rat, what did she mean?) with long-winded explanations (i.e. Harry relaying the whole meaning of his life to McCord). I would have preferred to have one or the other; oddly enough, considering how difficult the book is to actually read , I ended up feeling like I was being spoon-fed the subtext.Another irritation: maybe I'm wrong - I don't know much about Faulkner apart from this book - but I got the distinct impression from the way he described the convict's work that Faulker himself had never done a day's hard labour in his life. Who else would be able to say that the convict 'forgot how good it is to work'? After struggling through most of the book, I stopped exactly 5 pages before the end. I couldn't be bothered. But, again through determination, I picked it up after a two week break and read the last 5 pages. Funnily enough, I actually liked the ending. It felt like the only bit of the whole book which rung true. Apparently this book was born out of Faulkner's own heart-ache. I can imagine that the final words of 'Women, shit' came straight out of his own emotions at the time, and reveal the reason why women barely get a look-in throughout the whole book.Some of my dislike of the book is probably my own fault. There is nothing more aggravating than having to look up a word in the dictionary every few sentences. Still, I'd like to lay some of that blame on Faulker for being gratituously verbose.I suppose that is what defines my rating of 'The Wild Palms'. It is not a one-star book. But according to Good Reads' rating system, I had to choose that option because it means 'didn't like it'. If I could, I would have chosen 'good book - didn't like it'.


When I first started reading this book I became terribly afraid that I was just way too stupid to read Faulkner on my own. Every other Faulkner book I've read has been for a class, so I had the guidance of a teacher to get through the rough spots and bring to light some of the more difficult passages. While I know I definitely didn't get a lot of what was underlying the main two stories, the feelings that Faulkner can evoke in his narratives were still there and I was blown away by both stories, especially Old Man. Faulkner is just a genius, plain and simple.


¡¡¡Leído por Jose María Pou!!! Jo. Qué manera de leer, madre mía. Qué gozada.Vale, ya está. Uno de los mejores libros que he leído ultimamente pero el que más me ha echo sufrir con diferencia.Son dos historias que se intercalan sin que tengan nada que ver la una con la otra. Aunque una de ellas tiene mucha más intensidad y duración.Leerla es como ver una película de cine negro descarnado y despiadado, llena de frases y conversaciones lapidarias y no lógicas del todo.La historia principal va de una pareja que abandona todo absolutamente para vivir su amor. Pero en ese abandono de personas, cosas, familiares... también abandonan aparentemente la esperanza. Desnudan el amor de la posibilidad de que te mejore la vida, solo se aman por amarse y para amarse.Un amor descarnado que podría concebir quizá en dos enfermos, dos toxicómanos, dos seres abocados a la desgracia pero me cuesta vivirlo con dos personas que lo hacen por voluntad propia.Así hasta que se destruyen. No, se despedazan descarnadamente.La otra historia que transcurre en otro escenario, otras circunstancias y otra época es la de un hombre que renunca a amar, a ser libre, a vivir, con tal de estar en la carcel sin más esperanza.No sabemos bien por qué. Lo hace.


My parents' bookshelves are filled with minor works by major authors. I've never been sure why this is the case, it is as if bigger titles were plundered in the past and never returned or replaced.Because of this I have read, for example, two almost unknown and quite undistinguished (although very enjoyable) early novels by Gore Vidal and nothing else. I read a bunch of Huxley before I ever laid my hands on Brave New World. We have piles of Golding you've never heard of.And so, when I went looking for Faulkner, knowing they'd have something, I found The Wild Palms, a novel not even in print anymore. The initial work was edited heavily, and Faulkner had it restored and rereleased later as If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem. But I read what I had, and I am not sorry. It is a lovely 60's Penguin edition, scratched and falling apart. I had to stow it in an envelope between readings.So this is heavy, dense, gorgeous writing. 85% cocoa-solids dark chocolate. You and I both know that I don't know what I'm talking about, but it feels like the last remnants of that formal 19th century, early-twentieth century prose. Non-conversational, verbose and long sentences. It's very beautiful. Are there modern novelists who write in this manner?I guess if I want to read The Sound and the Fury I'll have to buy it. I certainly wont find it on the bookshelves at home.


I have to confess, that after finishing Faulkner's five novels most commonly listed as his "masterpieces" (Absalom, Absalom!, The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, As I Lay Dying, Go Down Moses), I had more or less figured that I'd exhausted his supply of truly great novels. My experiences with Intruder in the Dust (good, but far from great) and Sanctuary (dull, with agonizing moments of brilliance) seemed to support that notion.But I decided to read The Wild Palms [If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem] on what I can only really term as a "whim" after finishing Sanctuary, perhaps in the hope that it would wash the disappointing taste from my mouth with another Intruder-level novel and I found myself completely engrossed in the two seemingly-unconnected-but-actually-totally-connected novellas that make up this one strange, beautifully disjointed-but-actually-unified novel.Perhaps this is the moment where I reach full Faulkner-fanatic status, touting minor works as masterpieces, but what can I say? In my book, it did nearly everything right: the overwhelming mood of melancholy and resignation throughout; the musings on the nature of memory; the black wind and wild palms in the final "Wild Palms" section; the ironic fate of the convict; the inevitably tragic end of Charlotte and Harry. Hell, I even loved Harry's weird monologue at McCabe at the train station as they leave Chicago. I'd place The Wild Palms in Faulkner's "second-tier masterpieces" level, alongside As I Lay Dying and Go Down Moses, and I think I even liked it better than either of those. The language is every bit as beautiful and the sentences as long and difficult, but it's actually quite a bit less opaque than a lot of his other work (though I certainly wouldn't term it straightforward). "You remember: the precipice, the dark precipice; all mankind before you went over it and lived and all after you will but that means nothing to you because they cant tell you, forewarn you, what to do in order to survive. It's the solitude you see. You must do it in solitude and you can bear just so much solitude and still live, like electricity. And for this one or two seconds you will be absolutely alone: not before you were and not after you are not, because you are never alone then; in either case you are secure and companioned in a myriad and inextricable anonymity: in the one, dust from dust; in the other, seething worms to seething worms. But now you are going to be alone, you must, you know it, it must be, so be it; you heard the beast you have ridden all your life, the old familiar well-broken nag, up to the precipice -- . . . maybe you thought all the time that when the moment came, you could rein back, save something, maybe not, the instance comes and you know you cannot, know you knew all the time you could not, and you cannot; you are one single abnegant affirmation, one single fluxive Yes out of the terror in which you surrender volition, hope, all--the darkness, the falling, the thunder of solitude, the shock, the death, the moment when, stopped physically by the ponderable clay, you yet feel all your life rush out of you into the pervading immemorial blind receptive matrix, the hot fluid blind foundation--grave-womb or womb-grave, it's all one. But you return; maybe you knew that all the time, but you return, maybe you even live out your three score and ten or whatever it is but forever afterward you will know that forever more you have lost some of it, that for that one second or two seconds you were present in space but not in time, that you are not the three score and ten they have credited you with and that you will have to discharge someday to make the books balance, but three score and nine and three hundred and sixty four and twenty-three and fifty-eight..."

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