Thursday, May 6, 2010

Faulkner for the defense

I came across this yesterday -- it's a short note that Faulker put at the beginning of the last part of the three volume work recently published as "Snopes", but originally published as "The Hamlet", "The Town", and "The Mansion". Its eloquence, I think, trumps Nabokov's bile.

This book is the final chapter of, and the summation of, a work conceived and begun in 1925. Since the author likes to believe, hopes that his entire life’s work is a part of a living literature, and since “living” is motion, and “motion” is change and alteration and therefore the only alternative to motion is un-motion, stasis, death, there will be found discrepancies and contradictions in the thirty-four-year progress of this particular chronicle; the purpose of this note is simply to notify the reader that the author has already found more discrepancies and contradictions than he hopes the reader will—contradictions and discrepancies due to the fact that the author has learned, he believes, more about the human heart and its dilemma than he knew thirty-four years ago; and is sure that, having lived with them that long time, he knows the characters in this chronicle better than he did then.

8 comments:

Generic said...

Another way of saying "the characters surprised me" that edges closer to "I surprised myself."

Generic said...

There is another possible angle, too -- that a true genius, a Tolstoy or a Shakespeare, is capable of creating essentailly with a single act of imagination a character that has almost as much texture and potential built in as an autonmous individual -- a sort of "ghost in the shell" effect. Which is me coming back around from the other side to the godlike puppet master omnicience favored by some.

It still find it hard to see the appeal of an author who sees himself as a dictator putting galley slaves through their paces. I prefer my fictional characters without visible welts on their backs.

Tulkinghorn said...

Love your first paragraph, not at all sure about the second...

You should check out "Aspects of the Novel" by E.M. Forster (known to me only by the usual one-liner that summarizes the following) in which he articulates the distinction between round and flat characters....

Bertie Wooster, for example, is not going to surprise the author one day by, say, getting married..

Generic said...

I think I once argued that it is significant that Nabokov's response to the beauty of a butterfly was to kill it and pin it to a piece of cardboard.

Graph has to do with his feelings toward and treatment of his characters. Many other writers we like (Vargas, Seth, Atkinson) put their characters through the wringer without seeming to relish doing so.

Kubrick adapted Nabokov: Nihilism by association.

Tulkinghorn said...

And Nabokov loved the movie -- pretty chilly.

Although he's capable of staggering beauty and sympathy -- Speak, Memory for the former and Pnin for the latter.

And nihilism, absolutely never. Need another word there.

Generic said...

nihilism
ni·hil·ism
NOUN
1. total rejection of social mores: the general rejection of established social conventions and beliefs, especially of morality and religion
2. belief that nothing is worthwhile: a belief that life is pointless and human values are worthless
3. disbelief in objective truth: the belief that there is no objective basis for truth
4. belief in destruction of authority: the belief that all established authority is corrupt and must be destroyed in order to rebuild a just society
5. Russian political movement: a political movement in late 19th-century Russia that sought to bring about a socially just new society by destroying the existing one through acts of terrorism and assassination
[ Early 19th century. < German Nihilismus < Latin nihil "nothing" ]

Christian Lindke said...

And how, pray tell, does nihilism enter into the adaptation of Lolita. It may, or may not, but the validity of such an assertion must at least be articulated.

Generic said...

"Nihilism" probably (almost certainly) wrong. Withdrawn.