Thursday, July 7, 2011

An affair of the heart and mind--

I have so many books in my house--more books than any one else I know. I mean, I have a huge personal library with bookcases in every room. Take that literally! Actually, multiple bookcases in most rooms.

OK, what's my point? I picked up a book the other day and sat down with it. I haven't looked at this book in several years. It's  William Faulkner: The Cofield Collection. After reading the caption(s) on each page and studying every picture over a couple of days, I wrote a review on Amazon, which follows:

"I bought "William Faulkner: The Cofield Collection" in that little bookstore in the town square in Oxford, Mississippi some 20 years ago. It's been one of my treasures, a book that I've looked through time and time again and used to show photographs of Faulkner to my high school English classes when we read something by him. In re-organizing my house this summer, I found this treasure and finally sat down and read the captions and studied the photographs page by page as they reflect his life year by year. What I wish is that every devotee of Faulkner had a copy of their own. It has certainly revived my interest in Faulkner's fiction yet again.
What does a writer look like? Where does he come from? What are his influences? What was Faulkner the man like? His interests? His loves? What made Faulkner, well, Faulkner? Cofield, another Oxford resident, actually touches on the answers through this pictorial essay, but note: There is not one whit of gossipy information.
Starting with the preface by the one responsible for this particular photographic volume (there are other volumes) and ending with a wonderful, full-page, half-smile close-up of Faulkner, a succinct but revealing eulogy, and a genealogy chart, this book swept me through Faulkner's life, almost as if I was there.
Quick now: What did you learn about Faulkner by studying the photographs and reading each accompanying brief caption? In no particular order:

1. Faulkner was a horseman. Jack Cofield, fourth-generation photographer and curator of this book, states that Faulkner would have been a fine veterinarian.
2. Faulkner was a very private man (I knew that but not the extent). Example: He would not have gone to Sweden to accept his Nobel Prize. His wife Estelle convinced him to take their college-age daughter Jill and make it an European tour. He agreed to that. There's a photo of him as he works on his acceptance speech during the flight over.
3. He and his animal groomer had a mutual admiration and respect for each other. In fact, Andrew had his own horse for his own personal use. Faulkner had many spills during his riding days. The last one led indirectly to his death when he was 65 years old.
4. Faulkner considered himself a moderate in race relations. It annoyed him to no end to be called a racist.
5. Although I loved all the photographs, one really stood out: that of the swollen river most likely the river in "As I Lay Dying." The very idea of Anse trying to cross that river was sheer madness. But no, he really had his own hidden agenda and it was not to fulfill his dead wife's last vengeful request.
6. The photos of Faulkner and Estelle have always bothered me. Their poses show them as having a restrained relationship, but now I see them as witness to his demand for privacy. She does give him a goodbye hug before he and Jill leave for Sweden.
7. The family asked for privacy--and got it--for his funeral.

Taking this photographic journey through a favorite writer's life was a pleasure. I have stood in that town square, walked the path up to Rowan Oak, oogled the wall where he wrote notes for the time line in one of his novels, viewed his old shoes under his bed. The photos in the book reflect those images. One cannot always stand in a special place, taking in surroundings, wondering this, that, and the other. However, a book of photographs is the next best thing to being there.
"The Cofield Collection" is a true treasure that I can re-visit any time I want."

That ends the review. But more happened. I kept thinking about Faulkner and felt a strong desire to dig out all my Faulkner books and read the ones I haven't read and reread the ones I have. So now I'm beginning my own Faulkner marathon, beginning with his third book, "Sartoris," or the book which piqued his own interest in serious writing. He loved how his characters stood up on their own legs and looked around (that's a paraphrase). He had created a livng being he could control. How he controlled them and what they had to say and do and live and act are things he loved.

When someone (ignorantly--my own word) accuses Faulkner of racism, I know that person has not carefully read Faulkner's works, if at all. In "Sartoris" he infuses his black characteris with humanity and realness.

I will say more after I finish reading "Sartoris." The point I want to make in this blog is how careful a reader should be.

I also want to say that maybe, in your senior years, you might want to fall in love with a favorite writer of your youth all over again. I know I have---

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A favorite souvenir

A favorite souvenir
These are my two girls from Ireland!

Judy's shared items

Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)

  • *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
  • How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
  • The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
  • In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
  • *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
  • Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
  • The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
  • Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
  • Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
  • Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
  • Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
  • Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
  • *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
  • Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
  • *Ruined by Paula Morris
  • Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
  • Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
  • Silence by Shusaku Endo
  • *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
  • Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
  • *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
  • Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
  • *The Giver by Lois Lowery
  • *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski

School Library Journal - NeverEndingSearch


A semester course in one book about the Soviet Union. Click on image for my review.