What a wonderful debut novel Linzi Glass has written. Carefully, eloquently, immediately she draws you into the lives of a family in trouble within a fragmented society. This is South Africa in the s and tragedy is about to unfold in a prosperous white household. Twelve-year-old Emily Iris has a mother with glossy black hair and lips painted pink as bubblegum.
She's a living, breathing Barbie doll who finds it easier to appreciate her older daughter, beautiful, flame-haired, clever Sarah, than her tomboyish youngest. Emily's father, an importer of luxury chocolates, is distant, preoccupied. He and his wife do not get along. Their yelling in the middle of the night disturbs Emily's sleep so much that she has to creep into her sister's bed for comfort.
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Sarah is her safety net and kind, sensible ally. Her other ally is Buza, the Zulu night-watchman who protects the family from the dark woods nearby with his knobbly stick containing the power of 60 dead warriors. It is to Buza that Emily turns for guidance, and he provides it in the form of stories, including the one about Ma-We who learned how to glue broken eggs with the wax of wild bees and fill them with sweet honey.
Emily so longs for her fractious family life to be glued together somehow. And then the Gypsies arrive: a family of travellers in a caravan. Jock is a wildlife photographer from Australia. He is accompanied by Peg, his wife, who wears her pet python, Opalina, around her neck. And in the dark depths at the back of their van lurk their two sons, a year-old lunk called Otis, slow of wit, and his younger brother, Streak. The Iris parents are only too ready to invite these visitors to stay for the spring to provide distraction from their own problems.
And it works. Up to a point. Otis attaches himself to Sarah, while Emily and Streak develop a fast friendship. But the more that Emily discovers about the way Jock treats his sons, the more uneasy she becomes. Today, however, the message finds people ready to listen and to believe. But Faulkner was very clear: this was a novel.
The stories published separately were merely the building blocks of a structurally daring work. Faulkner turned to magazines to publish the elements of his novel out of financial despair—he was facing bankruptcy, and at this time sent several appeals to Hollywood studios volunteering his services as a writer. Deep in the McCaslin past are some untold truths: the family has a black line who go by the family name Beauchamp. He is being taught to hunt and, while he departs on the hunting expedition with a group of social equals, his real teacher is Sam Fathers—the son of a Choctaw chieftain and a run-away black slave— was betrayed and turned back to slavery by his father.
The first is a sort of rite-of-passage tale. McCaslin understands that learning to be a hunter marks the passage from adolescence to adulthood. You wait. The human existence, we learn, may be fleeting, brutal and unpleasant.
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It may involve noble thoughts, but more often than not they will be betrayed. Sam is concerned about living at one with his environment and protecting it. But finally, and critically for the novel as a whole, it is a story of race and racism. Two figures in the story, Sam and Turl—the son of a McCaslin ancestor by a black woman—are cast out and condemned to live a life in slavery, until the Civil War, and as outsiders thereafter. Both of them are mixed race, and it is clear that this is why they were cast out.
Some of these are ennobling, such as the hunt which brings them together. Others are heartless and cruel—racism, in particular. He is beside himself with grief, and he undertakes a series of self-destructive acts, including hurling a log in an unequaled feat of human strength. In most of the story, we see Rider through the eyes of a racist deputy.
Rider killed a security guard named Birdsong who falsely accused him of cheating in a game of dice. Rider is imprisoned, then taken and lynched. He also focuses on the utter corruption of law enforcement, making it clear that Rider was lynched because the sheriff was more concerned about appeasing the Birdsong family which could bring him 42 votes in any election than in enforcing the law. Faulkner gives it a contemporary setting.
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It is the fall of , and Franklin Roosevelt is campaigning for re-election. McCaslin is back on a hunting trip again, but he and his friends are worried about the threat of fascism. McCaslin is an old man now, approaching The radical environmentalism in this work is surprising:. This land which man has deswamped and denuded and derivered in two generations so that white men can own plantations and commute every night to Memphis.
The mistress is truly in love with Carothers and wants him to return that love. But Carothers wants to be rid of her; he offers only an envelope with some money. In this context old McCaslin, the scion of the family offers her some advice:. Maybe in a thousand or two thousand years in America , he thought. But not now!
Not now! This does little to soften the situation. McCaslin tells her there is no hope for her in Mississippi—no reconciliation with her own white kin, no chance of acceptance.
Will the McCaslins recognize that they are one family? Faulkner gives us a new generation. The best and most promising of the McCaslins is, as we learn, a black woman. Love appears as an essential medium of redemption and reconciliation. But Carothers and McCaslin both are chained to the social values of their generation.
They cannot see blacks as their equals.
Faulkner puts a test and they fail it. This is the vital moment of Go Down, Moses. Now, Obama tells us, the day has come. Conversation — August 5, , pm. Conversation — March 30, , pm. Context , No Comment — August 28, , pm. Sign in here.
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Subscribe here. Does the path out of our current era of stalemate, minority rule, and executive abuse require amending the Constitution? Should we abolish it entirely? Furthermore, she announced that she would try the case herself, the first time she had ever prosecuted a homicide.
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