Faulkner's Birth: Flags in the Dust (1929) and the Introduction of the Yoknapatawpha (or Yocoma) Myt

KeskusteluWilliam Faulkner and his Literary Kin

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Faulkner's Birth: Flags in the Dust (1929) and the Introduction of the Yoknapatawpha (or Yocoma) Myt

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Muokkaaja: marraskuu 22, 2009, 10:00 pm

Edit: Aww, the title was cut just short!

I'm 110 pgs into Flags in the Dust at the moment, any minute about to go back to it, and I couldn't, I know, get a whole lot of reading done this weekend, not nearly as much as I wanted to, but so anyway, I'm really enjoying it. The stylistic change from Mosquitoes to this is mind-blowing. I didn't expect it to be so powerful of a change, that he'd be able to in one novel find his voice.


Doesn't seem to be a widely read one. And I don't understand why. It's not quite as good as As I Lay Dying or Absalom, Absalom!, but it's not far off, and HEY! I recognize a lot of these characters from the other two books! and one of the Sartorises used to work with Thomas Sutpen from Absalom! woah! Some day, we need to make some kind of a character map, charting all the recurring characters and their relationships.

I've had a bit of trouble paying attention to all the Bayards and Johns (every generation of the Sartoris clan is named Bayard and John), but it's getting easier to differentiate b/w 'em. The story of this family is reminding me in ways of the Sutpens of Absalom. There's just this real strong atmosphere of tragedy and doom, &c.

It sounded like those who have read it on this board thought it was decent but not much else: mildly interesting. It's only my third REAL Faulkner and I'm lovin' it, but maybe only because I'm reading it so early, before I get far into the rest of his oeuvre. Maybe?

Here's a passage I liked:
Thus each opening was in a way ceremonial, commemorating the violent finis to some phase of his family's history, and while he struggled with the stiff lock it seemed to him that a legion of ghosts breathed quietly at his shoulder, and he pictured a double line of them with their arrogant identical faces waiting just beyond a portal and stretching away toward the invisible dais where Something sat waiting the latest arrival among them; thought of them chafing a little and a little bewildered, thought and desire being denied them, in a place where, immortal, there were no opportunities for vainglorious swashbuckling. Denied that Sartoris heaven in which they could spend eternity dying deaths of needless and magnificent violence while spectators doomed to immortality looked eternally on.

Oooooo eeeeeee oooooooooo.

And young Bayard Sartoris, having freshly suffered two tragedies in love and war, commenting "You aren't married yourself, are you?" he asked. She sat quietly, watching him. "Ought to try it," he added. "Everybody ought to get married once, like everybody ought to go to one war." Ouch. Sounds like this guy has a lot of issues.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 23, 2009, 9:31 am

If you are reading his books in chronological publication order, you should be reading the original published version of this one, Sartoris, now, and not getting to the Flags in the Dust version until the very end. It wasn't published in full until 1973. I have very mixed feelings about this issue of "the way the author intended" the book to be presented. I thought Sartoris was a fine story, and had read it at least twice before I even knew it was a "cut version" of a longer book. That made it hard for me to give Flags a fair reading, I think. One of these days I'm going to read them back to back and see if I can figure out what the overall effect of the editing is.

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 23, 2009, 1:34 pm


I was hoping to skip Sartoris, ignore its existence. Asked my two English profs for the semester, both of whom told me to go ahead and read Flags and just pretend Sartoris doesn't exist. Well, the way the author intended is the way the author intended in my mind!

I'm still enjoying the hell outta Flags! (Will say the action sequences feel a little awkward, e.g., young Bayard's reckless and suicidal driving.)

OH! What do you know about these "corrected text" editions that Vintage started publishing in the '80s? I can never find anything about them, and all my copies, save for Pylon, are older, but still Vintage.

marraskuu 23, 2009, 2:02 pm

"the way the author intended is the way the author intended in my mind!" Well, here's my problem with that. No one really knows that the result is what Faulkner intended. It was put together from a composite of manuscript and typescripts by two (ahem) editors---same type of creature responsible for the original cuts. And one of them is on record as saying that "There is no way, finally, to tell which of the many differences between Flags in the Dust and Sartoris were the result of Faulkner's emendations...and which belonged to Wasson {the original editor}". To "ignore its existence" is to assume a knowledge and understanding that even the men responsible for bringing us Flags in the Dust did not claim to have. I think you owe it to yourself to read it, and to decide for yourself which version does a better job of telling the story. Not even English profs know everything (and I hope my daughter the professor is not reading this).

marraskuu 23, 2009, 2:15 pm

I'm sure at some point I'll get to it, but I'll tell ya, I'm not much on re-reading. Usually have to wait a number of years before I'm ready to pick up a book again...but maybe I'll look for it and read it for the group's read of Flags, by which time, I'm sure, I won't even be able to tell the differences between them. :)))))

marraskuu 23, 2009, 7:12 pm

OK...I can't resist this. (Humor the old lady, 'k?) But at your age, surely if you pick up a book you read "a number of years ago", it would be a bit beneath your current reading level??

marraskuu 24, 2009, 1:58 pm

From Msg. #1: "...and HEY! I recognize a lot of these characters from the other two books!"

Yes, and that will continue to happen throughout Faulkner's work. It is one of the reasons I was advised to not read Faulkner in chronological order: characters often "show up" before you are ready for them because you know little or nothing about them. That makes the true understanding (or personal interpretation) of a character or a family even more difficult.

I have been lucky to have an advisor and guide through the labyrinth to (1) initially get a feeling for Faulkner and his styles and (2) to read his novels in a logical, character/family order.

During the past two years, I've read the books in this order:

1. The Unvanquished (Introductory)
2. Intruders in the Dust (Introductory)

The Snopes family trilogy:
3. The Hamlet
4. The Town
5. The Mansion

The character Temple Drake:
6. Sanctuary
7. Requiem for a Nun

Thomas Sutpen's history, the introduction of Quentin and Caddy Compson:
8. Absalom! Absalom!

The next novel I will read is The Sound and the Fury because it is about the Compsons--two of whom I have background on.

IMO, Faulkner can not be read in chrono order; his entire oeuvre is interconnected over the span of his writing life, just like life itself.


marraskuu 24, 2009, 2:11 pm

I would add to Charlie's excellent observations and to what I said in No. 4 that Faulkner not only rewards re-reading, he virtually requires it. I don't consider that a drawback at all. I've been reading him for approximately 40 years, and I don't expect I'll ever be "finished" with him.

marraskuu 24, 2009, 5:26 pm

>7 BrainFlakes:: I think that is the approach in The Portable Faulkner as well. It begins with four stories of the earliest days in Yoknapatawpha County and progresses from there. I was blown away with the writing in "The Courthouse." I find the baby steps technique is helpful to me in my Faulkner edification.

marraskuu 24, 2009, 10:22 pm

I agree, Donna. The Portable Faulkner (sometimes published as The Indispensable Faulkner) is a great way to ease into his work.

marraskuu 28, 2009, 2:26 pm

Msg #6 "OK...I can't resist this. (Humor the old lady, 'k?) But at your age, surely if you pick up a book you read "a number of years ago", it would be a bit beneath your current reading level??"

I don't have much to add, I just thought that was pretty funny.

I plan to be reading through Faulkner for the first time. Though it will start in the concurrent to Salon's schedule. I've been enjoying Light in August so far.

marraskuu 28, 2009, 8:37 pm

Thanks, Corro. I strive to be funny. Welcome to the group. I am thrilled to see 20-somethings reading Faulkner. I expect you will get something entirely different from it than Charlie (Brainflakes) and I do, but that's quite fine, as long as we all agree to respect our diverse perspectives.

marraskuu 29, 2009, 12:24 pm

Hurray for diversity; at home, in the workplace, within the community at large and on L.T.!~!

marraskuu 29, 2009, 3:39 pm

Diversity, huh? I'll see what I can do. ;D

marraskuu 29, 2009, 8:40 pm

Being done w/ the book now...I gotta say...and I didn't start noticing it until after the first 100 pgs, with the most being b/w pg. 100 and 230, that Flags in the Dust, while definitely a good read, was totally overwritten, with, like, 80 or 90 pages of seemingly unnecessary filler...

joulukuu 10, 2009, 9:15 pm

>15 tootstorm: You've hit the Faulknerian Flaw, RSHab, the big big stinkin' elephant in every Yoknnapatawphan room...Too Much.

Someone who was a wee tidge less worshipful coulda saved Soldiers' Pay and made Light In August *perfect* instead of excellent.

heinäkuu 12, 2011, 8:16 am

I've been reading Faulkner for the first time this summer, and after going at him kind of randomly, decided to stop and read the Yoknapatawpha books in order instead, so I was interested to see the list in reply 7 proposing to read them not in the order he wrote them but in their interior chronological order. Maybe I'll do that now. I've already been skipping around -- I started with some of the collected short stories, then read Light in August and As I Lay Dying and Go Down Moses, then The Hamlet, at which point I thought I'd go back to the first one and read Flags in the Dust and then The Sound and the Fury. I guess at this point it doesn't much matter what order I take the rest of them in, does it? And I KNOW I'll have to/want to reread at least a few of these, mostly TS&TF.

heinäkuu 12, 2011, 8:33 am

#17 Sounds like you're well enough into the Yoknapatawpha environment to wander at will. And I'm thrilled that you are already looking forward to re-reading.

#15 Flags in the Dust was originally published in a severely edited version as Sartoris, Todd. I think it works much better, but I've always wondered if I think that because it's what I read first. Flags wasn't even published in that form until 1973. I'm always skeptical of that "this is what the author intended" stuff, though. Very few novels go to print exactly as the author presented them, and that's probably often a very good thing.

#16 Someone who was a wee tidge less worshipful coulda saved Soldiers' Pay Who are you referring to, Richard? Who was there to be worshipful at that point?

heinäkuu 12, 2011, 9:11 am

I decided to read Flags in the Dust instead of Sartoris after reading about how edited down the latter was, and rather against Faulkner's will, but now I suppose I ought to read both.

heinäkuu 14, 2011, 8:56 pm

NancyKay, I think that since you've read the Hamlet you will surely want to read The Town and the Mansion and see what happens to all those Snopeses.

heinäkuu 15, 2011, 9:42 am

Yes indeed, I've got it on reserve at the library.