Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mules

I write this post not because I have knowledge or any particular interest in mules. I have never owned or lived with an owner of mules, although I’ve heard many stories told by ancestors who once owned them.

credit


I present this excerpt from William Faulkner's Flags in the Dust to illustrate how a skilled writer pens words that grab you and won't let you go; captures a solid sense of time and place; explores the deep strata of history and legend.

The fiction of William Faulkner is populated by unforgettable characters caught up in the brutality and tenderness of the human condition, during a tragic time in our nation's history. His themes are universal, however: tradition, family, community, the land, history, race and the passions of ambition and love.

Sometimes, he gives us a slice of downplayed humor, as in his discussion of mules.

“Some Cincinnatus of the cotton fields should contemplate the lowly destiny, some Homer should sing the saga, of the mule and his place in the South. He it was, more than any one creature or thing, who, steadfast to the land when all else faltered before the hopeless juggernaut or circumstance, impervious to conditions that broke men’s hearts because of his venomous and patient preoccupation with the immediate present, won the prone South from beneath the iron heel of Reconstruction and taught it pride again through humility and courage through adversity overcome, who accomplished the well-nigh impossible despite hopeless odds, by sheer and vindictive patience. Father and mother he does not resemble, sons and daughters he will never have; vindictive and patient (it is a known fact that he will labor ten years willingly and patiently for you, for the privilege of kicking you once); solitary but without pride, self-sufficient but without vanity; his voice is his own derision. Outcast and pariah, he has neither friend, wife, mistress nor sweetheart; celibate, he is unscarred, possesses neither pillar nor desert cave, he is not assaulted by temptations not flagellated by dreams, nor assuaged by visions; faith, hope and charity are not his. Misanthropic, he labors six days without reward for one creature whom he hates, bound with chains to another whom he despises, and spends the seventh day kicking or being kicked by his fellows..”

In typical Faulknerian style, paragraphs and sentences are long, the punctuation at times irregular. The above is only a portion of a paragraph that runs on for approximately 430 words!

If you want to learn interesting facts about mules, information is at the American Mule Museum. There are fascinating facts here, most of which I didn't know. It gives one a new appreciation of the humble mule.

*****

If you regularly read this blog, you know I am on a quest to read all Faulkner major works by the end of 2014. And I am making good progress. So far I have completed (and thoroughly enjoyed):

The Sound and the Fury
The Unvanquished
Flags in the Dust
There Was a Queen (short story)
Today I will begin reading Light in August.

15 comments:

  1. Enjoyed reading the excerpt about mules. I'm impressed that you are making such good progress with Faulkner

    Darla

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    1. I have rather surprised myself with the progress, but I am really hooked.I'm about 150 pages into Light in August, and am not enjoying it so much as the others, which were about the Sartoris family -- common characters through the generations in all. With LIA, new people; same town: Jefferson, Miss.,Yoknapatawpha County (fictional location of ALL his books).

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  2. I, too, am impressed with the progress you're making with Faulkner. He does have his own way of communicating, doesn't he!? When reading sentences such as those I have sometimes been grateful I learned to diagram sentences in school, so I can sort out some of the meanings! I didn't know about mules either. I shall rate them more highly from now on!

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    1. Haha; diagraming helps! A few time I've found myself backing up to find the beginning of the parenthetical enclosed info, because by the time I reach the close parenthesis I've lost what the original point was! Seems the lowly mule has played a large role in countries' development.

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  3. The picture of the mule is quite elegant : )
    I don´t remember having read anything by Faulkner.
    His writing would need time to read. The piece you selected is descriptive, bold and honest.






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    1. I thought that picture was quite nice, too. Did you ever see the movie, "The Long Hot Summer?" (1958, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward). It was based on a couple of Faulkner's short stories. You are correct: his writing/stories need to be read, processed, though about, sorted through. Not for the casual reader. Some people love him; others hate his writing. So far, I LOVE it.

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  4. Thanks for the quote. You can get a sense of an author's style with a quote of this length. Helpful :)

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    1. Yes, I notice that you usually provide a quote when you review a book on your blog. It does help one decide if they want to venture down that path with an author!

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  5. This makes me want to read the book. Now I understand what raised your interest in the names of our granddaddy ' s mules from long ago! Strange how things cross paths...we saw lots of pretty mules in pastures today and talked about mules! And....I saw our grandaddy ' s old place. Maybe we should go to Mule Show this fall in Columbia TN!

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    1. HAHA; just, had mules of my mind. I remembered that one was named Lindy but I still have to find my notes where I have it written down. As you know, I querried both mother and daddy extensively back in the 1970s forward about everything I could think of about the olden days. We really should attend Mule Days in Columbia in April.

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  6. My father was a fan of mules. Never really knew why as he was a city guy, but whenever we would drive by them he would go on about what great animals they were. Wish I could go to the Mule Show in Columbia - sounds interesting.

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    1. Here's a link to Mule Days: http://muleday.org/
      Held each year beginning March 31 and runs for a week. I've never been but maybe I'll make it next year.

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  7. I have never read his books. I know they sit on my eldest son's book shelf.
    He sure does hold you for a while.
    The last mule around here, died about 4 years ago.
    When I first came to Portugal over 40 years ago.. there were many still working in the fields.. even up until 15 years ago, one could come across a few. I will take a look at the Mule museum..
    I always felt sorry for them somehow.. they were an it. Neither this nor that.
    We had a donkey that died 25 years ago.
    A very interesting post Sanda.
    val xx

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    1. Val, I know what you mean about feeling sorry for them; so do I. They have a sad face, and they work so hard and I wonder if owners always treated them kindly. They are hard-working animals: pulled wagons, plowed fields, turned sorghrum mills, were ridden; you name it and the mule had a part of providing a living for families back in the day.

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