Tuesday, June 29, 2010

ON BOOKS ~ Light In August...

"Memory believes before knowing remembers.  Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders."
Wow.  Think about that quote for a moment.  If I were going to write a book, that would be a pretty fine way to start.  But the writer that strung those words together is so impressive he saved them until the start of his 6th chapter.  Must be nice.  To be so succinct.

Now, I don't think many people would ever describe William Faulkner as "succinct."  He did not often display brevity or clarity in his writing.  He liked to play with language, creating his own words, using uncommon punctuation and was a big proponent of the run-on sentence.  These unusual techniques and inventive style of writing inevitably led to many a confuzzled reader.  But I am telling you.  The man could be brief.  He has a chapter in "As I Lay Dying" existing entirely of five words, making quite a statement.  And above, in "Light In August," he gets right to the point - with great clarity if you take a step back and see it for what it is instead of trying to put it into a conventional box.

The conventional box is that of the TV crime drama - illustrating how multiple witnesses to the same scene recall it in very different ways.  Or in movies of child abuse where the victim's memory of the assault is repressed until a triggering event brings it all crashing back.

But describing those phenomena as I just did is not nearly as nice as Faulkner's way.  To me, the way he puts it is pretty much perfect.  I can describe it using analogies or plain English.  He plays with English and makes it far from plain - yet clearer than it ever could be.

Your memories are your truth.  But they are not necessarily the facts.  Your memories are creations from snippets of senses, perspectives that change over time, and that may evolve.  And they are what you believe.  Until knowledge comes along, after all that hard work and time, to tug on your shirtsleeve like an innocent child, pointing out a crack in your belief.  That you now remember very clearly.  That you now know.

I don't know who erases what we forget and reveals what we remember.  I know that sometimes I am better served without that knowledge - that my memories are good enough, maybe even better.  Other times I know that I need that knowledge badly - that my soul is lacking without those pieces which haunt it.  But until that source, representing our subconscious, chooses to fill in the gaps with knowledge, our memories are all we have to work with.  Which is why they are what we believe.

We need other people and their memories to help create a truer picture.  To fill in the missing pieces of ourselves.  And sometimes, we need a succinct string of words to point that out.  Thank you Mr. Faulkner.  For shining that August light into my summer reading.

9 comments:

jehara said...

That is a really beautiful quotation. I am going to have to that one away.

Wanda said...

I love coming across passages like this in a book, moments to just take a step back, pause and sigh.

I wrote a poem a few years ago that fits with this post perfectly. I still have a hard time reconciling memory with truth in some cases.

Sandy Nawrot said...

What a beautiful post Molly! This was inspired! You know, I have my gift of Faulkner that you gave me last year, and is on the stack for my TBR Challenge. I stroked it last night, wondering if I should start it yet, (having just finished The Monster of Florence) but decided it might not be good for traveling and loud children. I want to give it it's due. (After school starts, I'm thinking...)

stacybuckeye said...

As I Lay Dying is waiting to be read for the RYOB challenge and this post made me want to start it soon. Memories and reality are two different things and I loved your thoughts on the contradiction.

Kathleen said...

I really want to read Light in August. I hated The Sound and the Fury but loved As I Lay Dying. Growing up in a large family (I have 8 sisters) I understand memories vs. reality. We have had many conversations about things from our childhood and we always remember things a bit differently. It's a fun exercise to go through with family members.

Susan said...

Your post is kind of like Churchill's quote, "... a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma". I think I will have to take a while to sift through it to absorb what you have said. It's very profound.

ds said...

Beautiful, Molly. "...my soul is lacking without those pieces which haunt it." Mmmmm.
I think Mr. Faulkner would be pleased.

Beth F said...

Wow! This is now one of my favorite posts of your. Lovely. I am a huge Faulkner fan, and yet I haven't visited with him in a long time. You have made me miss him -- memory, remembrance, knowing, believing ....

Lisa said...

Yea! Another Faulkner fan!