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Monday, June 15, 2009

The Mansion

The Mansion by William Faulkner

The Mansion features a conflict between Mink Snopes and the rest of the world.

Mink is a classic victim; yet, he is honorable in his own way. After letting his cow illegally graze in his neighbor's pasture for the winter, he kills the neighbor for charging a nominal, bureaucratic fee on top of a (reduced) cost of grazing.

He is sent to Parchman prison for this, but he believes his cousin, Flem, could have saved him. So he plans to kill Flem as soon as he is released...in 40 years. While we wait, Faulkner tells us of Mink's life in prison, the happenings in Jefferson and the loves and tragedies of Flem's daughter.

The characters are peculiar, interesting and surprisingly realistic...but not terribly sympathetic. The novel, meanwhile, is typical Faulkner--complete with a wandering plot, subtle social commentary and unbelievably rich descriptions.

It is the third in a trilogy of novels of the Snopes family, but it stands on its own. You won't miss much if you haven't read the first two. In fact, Faulkner even admits there are some discrepancies between The Mansion and the first two Snopes novels.

I double-dipped a bit on this one, reading it for both my What's in a Name challenge and the Southern Reading Challenge. While Flem's mansion (thus the title) doesn't factor heavily throughout the novel, the hot weather did Mississippi proud--making it a perfect beginning for this summer's Southern reading.

Favorite quotes...

He...was not a contentious man...It was simply that his own bad luck had all his life continually harassed and harried him into the constant and unflagging necessity of defending his own simple rights.

So he went to Parchman...having left the hills which he had known all his life, for the Delta which he had never seen before--the vast flat alluvial swamp of cypress and gum and brake and thicket lurked with bear and deer and panthers and snakes, out of which man was still hewing savagely and violently the rich ragged fields in which cotton stalks grew ranker and taller than a man on a horse.

Nor did he even count off the years as they accomplished. Instead, he simply trod them behind him into oblivion beneath the heavy brogan shoes in the cotton middles behind the mule which drew the plow and then the sweep, then with the chopping and thinning hoe and at last with the long dragging sack into which he picked, gathered the cotton.

I can read reading, but I can't read writing good.

Eula Varner...never needed to be educated nowhere because jest what the Lord had already give her by letting her stand up and breathe and maybe walk around a little now and then was trouble and danger enough for ever male man in range.

As Texas would be where it had spent the presumable most of its prenatal existence, wouldn't nobody be surprised if it was cutting its teeth at three months old.

And even though the rest of the world, at least that part of it in the United States, rates us folks in Mississippi at the lowest rung of culture, what man can deny that, even if this is as bad as I think it's going to be, we too grope toward the stars?

That was humility, the only kind of humility that's worth a hoot: the humility to know they's a heap of things you don't know yet but if you jest got the patience to be humble and watchful long enough, especially keeping one eye on your back trail, you will.

Women are marvellous. They stroll perfectly bland and serene through a fact that the men have been bloodying their heads against for years.

The same government that wouldn't let you raise cotton on your own land would turn right around and give you a mattress or groceries or even cash money, only first you had to swear you didn't own any property of your own and even had to prove it by giving your house or land or even your wagon and team to your wife or children or any kinfolks you could count on, depend on, trust.

Being a Southerner, he knew that no white man understood Negroes and never would so long as the white man compelled the black man to be first a Negro and only then a man.

Politics and political office are not and never have been the method and means by which we can govern ourselves in peace and dignity and honor and security, but instead are our national refuge for our incompetents who have failed at every other occupation by means of which they might make a living for themselves and their families; and whom as a result we would have to feed and clothe and shelter out of our own private purses and means.

7 comments:

  1. okay I have no input on all this reading jazz. but the cover, from a graphic designer's perspective is quite eye catching.

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  2. I thought it was interesting, too! I read the whole book trying to decide if I liked the cover. By the end, I did. :)

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  3. For some reason I have never been able to finish a Faulkner novel...

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  4. All I've ever read of Faulkner is The Sound and the Fury, but this review made me want to dip back into him a little!

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  5. I prefer Willie Morris...

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  6. I'd never heard of The Mansion but then again I've not read any Faulkner. Gasp!

    I gotta say this sounds interesting though and I love the character's name - Mink. How quirky.

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  7. So far, Faulkner's Light in August has been my favorite. Highly recommend it. :)
    Meanwhile, Iliana--all those Snopes characters have funny names! Mink, Montgomery Ward, Wall Street. There is probably a backstory, but I haven't read it yet.

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