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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Popular fiction by Faulkner

The 100 Years of Best American Short Stories includes one from William Faulkner that as far as I know isn't widely red - That Will Be Fine; the editors were restricted to stories that had appeared in BASS collections of the past so the Faulkner pickings may have been thin. That Will Be Fine isn't Faulkner at his best (nor at his weirdest and most demanding, it's a pretty straightforward piece, for him), but it typifies a few Faulkner traits, notably: really good, witty dialogue; sensitivity to children and their view of the world; immersion in the Deep South and its class and race dominated social culture. This story is entirely narrated by a 7-year-old boy, Georgie, and the trick is that we as readers always understand way more than he does (sometimes WF pushes that beyond credibility, but still). The boy "works for" his troubled Uncle Rodney, which is to say he takes on minor chores for which he hopes to be paid a dime (later a quarter, or as Uncle Rodney promises, 20 quarters) that he can use to buy an xmas present for his elderly grandfather - he worries that nobody will buy the grandfather a present because he's too old. Rodney, however, is a schemer and a womanizer, and he uses Georgie to help him escape from his creditors, from the law, and, finally, to help him abduct (or try to) another man's wife (along w/ her jewelry), and the incident comes to no good end (for Rodney). The boy ends up thinking he'll get a few coins for his work (he doesn't understand that Rodney never intended to pay him, nor - at the end - that a group of men in the small town have shot Rodney to death), hence the title. This story doesn't have the grandeur of, say, The Bear or Wild Horses, but it's a good example of Faulkner in his commercial phase, in the days when there was a huge market for popular short stories, and we can see that this one pushes  popular fiction toward high literary style: the bidge between this and As I Lay Dying is not that long a span.

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