Thursday, February 12, 2009

Deja Vu All Over Again

I am reading Faulkner's Light in August and it is creeping me out. It's my first book of the Themed Reading Challenge in which I have vowed to finish various books and clear my guilty conscience.

I know I read part of this particular book in 10th grade, but never finished it. I wrote the book report anyway, having decided the book was trash and not worth my reading time. My English teacher (who seemed ancient and spinsterish to me at the time, although she was probably fresh out of college and ever-so-earnest) obviously could tell I hadn't finished it. She gave me a B for the semester, which is the same as an F in my book, English being one of my natural talents. (My other natural talent is Eraser Tag . . . the details of which I will leave for another day.)

I'm vaguely surprised that we were reading such literature in high school in the mid-70's, and grateful that era's conservatives did not object to 10th graders reading about Lena, an abandoned, unmarried, pregnant woman walking across two states in search of the n'er-do-well father of her child, and Joe Christmas, a bi-racial orphan who stoicly bears the severe whippings administered by his adoptive father. I objected, though, and put it down.

What is creepy about it is this: I don't remember Lena, although her episode opens the book. But as I read about Joe Christmas, I have the eerie feeling that I've read it all before, not just in the sense of familiarity but in the sense of deja vu, where the passage of time slips a gear, the world swims in a kind of haze, and the hair on the back of my neck stands up. That's a thrilling feeling when it happens briefly, but with this book, the feeling lasts page after page.

I wonder at what point I put this book down in 10th grade? I'm actually looking forward to reading a page that doesn't give me that spooky we-have-all-been-here-before tingle.


  1. Light in August blew me away. I lived inside that book the whole time I was reading it. And it has lingered.

  2. Agreed. I was wrong in disrespecting it the first time. Maybe I just wasn't ready for it then. Now I think Faulkner is a genius. (Deja vu or not.)

  3. You make me want to pick up some of the books that I was sooo annoyed with in high school.

    Wonder if 20-something years would give me a different perspective?

  4. Hmmmmmm, I think that I would maybe skim if it was that creepy.....

  5. Definitely a different perspective now that I am older. I have avoided Faulkner for all these years and now want to read more of his books.

    Also, happy to report that the creepiness has subsided. I must not have read this far the first time.


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