30 April 2010


"To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi."

--William Faulkner

To the above quote, a friend said, "To understand Mississippi, you must first understand William Faulkner. Frankly, who cares."

To the comment above: That is pretty much what some scholars say: you have to understand Absalom, Absalom!, in particular, to understand the South. But, if my comprehension of the South depends on my reading Faulkner, then I'll never know. Those novels are unreadable, in my estimation, or at least interminable.

Still, I agree with the core of Faulkner's observation (although overstated). For example, what do the Blues mean? What does it say about the human spirit under conditions of oppression? And, why did that genre develop in the Delta (that's the Yazoo-Mississippi inland watershed), that "most southern of places," where Natchez, in the 1820s-40s, had the richest citizens in the U.S., but now the subregion is economically peripheral and bypassed and has (as does much of Mississippi) many socio-economic indicators (e.g., infant mortality rate), the worst in the U.S., on the level of Brazil or Trinidad-Tobago? The Delta is America's Africa.

Faulkner's observation is overstated, I believe, because one would not have to understand Mississippi to understand the world. But, if one CANNOT understand Mississippi, then the world--as abstraction and real places--would be incomprehensible.

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