Saturday, April 14, 2018

Go Down, Moses: Mini-Review

Go Down, Moses (1942) is a book of seven interconnected short stories by William Faulkner. The stories' most prominent character and the character's voice which becomes most familiar is Isaac McCaslin, also known as Uncle Ike. Isaac lives to be a quite old man who is "uncle to half a county and father to no one." Faulkner uses the McCaslin family to highlight the very complex and changing relationship between whites and blacks. The McCaslin family itself has two branches--a white branch which descends from Carothers McCaslin and his wife and a black branch which descends from McCaslin's sexual relationship with a slave named Tomey. Tracing the history of the families, Faulkner presents events to the reader that take on significance only in later stories. He also uses the stories to underline the painful racial divisions that permeate the South and wants the reader to know that without an understanding of that basic fact of Southern life, there can be no understanding of the South as a whole.

I've mentioned before my difficulty with stream of consciousness writing, particularly in relation to Faulkner's work. I struggled with Intruder in the Dust seven years ago, but I found the struggle to be rewarding and didn't mind the slog through the stream. Unfortunately, that was not the case here. One would expect that the shorter format would limit the exhaustion of the stream of consciousness format--it didn't. The shorter format only seemed to make the long, convoluted sentences more obvious and more work for less reward. 

Intruder, in my opinion, is even more crucial to understanding the division in the South than these stories...or Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. "The Fire and the Hearth" (included here) is tagged in the fly-leaf notes as a kind of prelude to Intruder in the Dust, but I can't say that I really see the connections (of course, that may be because that happens to be one of the stories in this collection that I understand least). And it certainly doesn't have the power of the longer work. I do appreciate Faulkner's technique in weaving the stories together and I found his stories about Uncle Ike's younger years to be most interesting. ★★ and a half.

[Finished on 3/30/18]

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