Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Reivers

The Reivers is by far the most lighthearted - and most accessible - novel I've read by William Faulkner. Apparently many Faulkner scholars regard it as one of his lesser works, but this Pulitzer-winning satire is hilarious. It does take a few pages to adjust to Faulkner's rhythm and style - long sentences, people described more by what they are not than by what they are, characters who all seem to be related and/or have similar names... but once you do so, it's a quick read. Plus, it would be a great introduction to Faulkner precisely because it is less complicated than his other works.

The Reivers is set in Faulkner's fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, during the first decade of the 1900s. Eleven-year-old Lucius Priest is convinced by his family's shady retainer Boon Hogganbeck to take his grandfather's car (the first one in the County) to Memphis. While on the road they find that Ned McCaslin, Lucius' grandfather's black coachman, has stowed away. Boon and Lucius head straight for Miss Reba's bordello where Boon tries to woo Miss Corrie; Ned heads to the black part of town where he trades the automobile for a stolen racehorse. Our three unlikely heroes scheme to win back the car, enlisting the help of Miss Reba and the girls.

The four-day ordeal is Lucius' introduction to the underbelly of society: whores, gambling, horse smuggling and general non-virtue. He returns home somehow changed, grown up in a way. Boon and Miss Corrie find moral redemption of a sort. And Ned manages to get the best of everyone involved on a variety of levels. I'd recommend this highly to both Faulkner fans and the uninitiated.

Next up: Beloved by Toni Morrison

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