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Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Long and Happy Life

I'm not sure Reynolds Price would necessarily take this as a compliment, but A Long and Happy Life was the best Faulknerian novel I've read in quite a while (maybe ever). There were stretches that really made me think of Faulkner's suggestive, hypothetical, and convoluted paragraphs (which could almost be called an inner monologue by the narrator). Not only that but his heroine (Rosacoke Mustian) reminded me very much of Lena Grove one of Faulkner's few important female characters and the heroine of Light in August. I am not quite certain what prompted the linkage between those two in my mind, their stories are very different, but both are strong female characters who stand up to the injurious treatment inflicted upon them by their respective lovers. Maybe that was sufficient, or maybe that wasn't the reason at all, maybe they are simply two white, poor women who are left alone and suffer and that was enough; or maybe it wasn't even that, but something completely different, hard to pin down, yet still there and impossible to avoid.

A striking aspect of the novel, a young women who fights for the love of the boy she fell for years earlier as a child, was that it was written from the perspective of a woman but by not just a man but a homosexual man. Now of course you could argue that this would allow him to bring a better understanding to the subject as he would be able to reflect more on what it means to love a man, but at the same time I wonder how he could be able to immerse himself in (especially, but not exclusively, sexual) matters of the relation between a man and a woman. Or, maybe inter-human relations differ as little from one another that his sexuality made no difference here - even if I doubt it as culture would play an important role in any relation and who would argue that there is no cultural difference between men and women?

Whatever these (non?-)difficulties, Price amazingly manages to immerse the reader into Rosacoke's thoughts and life, making him (or her) suffer with her and almost obliging him (again, or her; in this case: me) to keep on reading as often and fast as possible even while trying to do so slowly in order not to finish the pleasure of reading the book too soon. A great, great book.

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