Well, my first attempt at this new experiment did not go as planned. I wanted to read eight books this summer (in addition to my other book club reads), but I only managed four and 2/5ths. Granted, I’ve been ridiculously busy with unexpected events, but I’m a bit disappointed that I never got to all the southern novels I picked out, because they all looked so damned interesting! I’ll probably revisit this category to finish off the list, as well as add some other important reads (like everything Carson McCullers ever wrote). Below are my opinions on the two books I was able to finish up this month.
I was incredibly skeptical about starting Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury. Either people are exhausted by William Faulkner or they love him too much, which leads me to believe that they are a bit too pretentious for me. I had to really pump myself up to start this book, but once I did I had a hard time putting it down. I felt myself both aggravated and completely fascinated by the characters, the stylistic choices, and the fact that it felt like there was nothing happening and everything happening at the same time. I did feel a little betrayed by the novel, because not much was answered for me by the end (and boy did I have questions!). Did Caddy and Quentin actually commit incest? How badly did Benjy hurt those girls? I like juicy intrigue as much as the next gossip, but Faulkner only gives us vague suggestions and veiled context. I tend to over think things, so maybe I’m making these plot points into mountains, but the unknown tends to bother me. Regardless, The Sound and the Fury really stuck with me. It was beautiful and sad and really very haunting, and while the first part of the book was incredibly frustrating (and it only got marginally less so later on), I am very thankful that I finally read it.
The last book was Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, and I didn’t even finish this one. I’m still reading it and will finish eventually, but I just couldn’t complete it by the end of September. But wow, this one is really taking me by surprise. I’m so happy I decided to pick it up. I don’t know why I thought it would be dry and boring, but it’s the exact opposite. The writing is some of the best I have ever read, and anything that opens with a hitchhiker telling the guy who just picked him up that he’s fresh out of prison for killing a man will always catch my attention. I have always enjoyed Steinbeck, but this novel far exceeded my expectations. The Joad family is a fascinating portrait of many American tenant farmers during the Dust Bowl, fighting to maintain their hope and human dignity. The Grapes of Wrath also put an important time in this country’s history into stark perspective for me. I know a lot about the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl from school and my own general research, but I’ve never read anything so directly set in that time (which is strange, now that I think of it), and from the perspective of those dealing with it. It also helped that I was completely sucked into the Ken Burns’ Roosevelt miniseries on PBS while also sucked into The Grapes of Wrath. I feel like I got a really nice refresher course in American 20th century history! The thing I might be enjoying the most throughout this book is the description of route 66 and the towns along the way. I drove what was once 66 (now 40) back in 2009 when I went out to Los Angeles, and it’s a strange sort of nostalgia to read about the Joad’s hitting Amarillo, where I once stopped for gas, and Tucumcari. It makes me feel connected to them. I wish I could write more about this book and its impressive characters, specifically Ma, who is an incredible example of women navigating difficult lives and staying strong for the men and children they love. But unfortunately I’m not even halfway through the novel yet. I can say, however, that this is an incredible book. If you are like me and weren’t forced to read this by a teacher or professor, do yourself a favor and force yourself. You’ll be happy you did.
So that’s it for the Summer reads. I’ve already started my Gothic novels for the Fall, to ensure that I don’t fall behind (get it) like I did over the Summer. But my life is finally calming down, so I’m completely optimistic that I will read all eight spooky novels, curled up in bed with any manner of comforting beverage. Lord knows I deserve it! I will leave you with my ultimate favorite, Thug Notes: