Monday 28 April 2014

Book Review - 'Intruder In The Dust' by William Faulkner

This is ONLY my favorite tale from my favorite author. I have literally made a pilgrimage to Faulkner's home in Oxford, MS on more than one occasion. It helped of course that my good friend Oso Negro was living there and working on his PhD at Ole Miss. But I swear I would have gone anyway! Faulkner was my mentor, as I developed my own writing style over the years.

Faulkner's stream-of-consciousness writing style does not disappoint here. My experience reading this narrative can only be described as the feeling you get when arriving to your favorite body of water for laps in the undisturbed fog at dawn... diving into the lukewarm greenblue with cap and goggles and bathing suit all melted into you... and swimming slowly with a flutter of toes, cutting a clean line from page to page, beginning to end, melting into the body of water. Immaculate read from begin to end. More like a long poem, pages and pages without the constraint of constant unbearable punctuation.

Yes, with Faulkner, you the reader must be willing to work hard at times to figure out what's going on. But Intruder in the Dust was an unstoppable regular strong heartbeat pumping a cry of justice through my veins. The cry of justice is a subtle sound that grows louder to the point where it is almost deafening by the end. I wish I could spoil, because there is a late night movement into the heart of darkness, which casts a wonderful spell over the whole work.

In this masterpiece (and lesser-praised, lesser-known of his works), the narrative focuses through the eyes of a young boy, son of a benevolent lawyer who is self-appointed to defend a black man accused of murder in the deep south at a time when being a black man in the deep south is, well -- painful...impossible. You get a To Kill a Mockingbird feel from this book.

What I love about Intruder In the Dust is that I had already made my way with a great stubborn desire through most of Faulkner's long catalogue of works, from the ones that brought him fame and fortune to the relative sleepers 'the Mansion and 'the Town' (I really did use those tales to help me fall asleep, I confess!). I expected this one to be as dry and unbecoming as the aforementioned works.

Instead you get a delightful taste of the master at his level best. I believe his use of the boy through whose eyes we see all the insensate cruelties of the adult world around him, makes for a clear and sensitive treatment of the tale. You also have to wonder if this tale got less mass appeal for the same reason. More cryptic works like the Sound and the Fury have patterned coded truths embedded in them for academia to pick apart and decipher. This work is very straightforward.

As a writer, I simply had to absorb every word of the masterful Faulkner. This work is captivating and unusually heartfelt. Read it. Feel it. A good primer for anyone new to William Faulkner. If I was teaching ninth grade English, I would put it on the reading list for American literature,for sure. I keep it on my shelf. Physical.

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