Saturday, October 8, 2011

Delta Dinge Blues II

I don’t know—was it really a literary question? A moral or psychosexual one? Why Faulkner sat so coldly & impersonally at his desk late at night there in Rowan Oaks. Writing, typing, waiting…

Sipping his whiskey, calmly waiting for the moment when they’d arrive. Each novel with its own discomfort and torment, its own incomprehensible characters lost in time just as much as he was.

All around him his family ruined by the Secessionary War, all those great southern families done in by confederate armies, carpetbaggers and lost fortunes. Sons & descendents from one generation to the next—the males in the family all failures & somehow ending up disappointed lovers.

He sat there, never expecting any official recognition. Instead a cold self-absorption with death—like Quentin and Shreve. Delving back into time—their Sutpen séances there in that cold Harvard dormitory room.

Faulkner replaying his secret pleasure—the one that possessed him with The Sound and the Fury. Free to write about what he wanted to write about—forgoing favors to publishers & critics. Not expecting anything of himself—except the moment. The moment when Benjy, Caddy, Quentin came into the room.

A Southern séance was like that... A chat with your antebellum past—the forbidden love of Henry Sutpen for his mulatto half-brother. That moment in another dorm room—this time at Ole Miss not Harvard. When two male lovers back then reached forward in time—to talk awhile with two other lovers in the future. A communing with dead lovers...

Such a brief male honeymoon for both couples—much more scandalous than the infamous str8t rape scene in “Sanctuary.” Alabama Red fucking Temple Drake all night long—there in Miss Reba’s crummy old Memphis whore house. With bug-eyed voyeur Popeye ogling, drooling, hanging onto the brass bed posts—howling like a dog at the goddamn moon.

Faulkner sat there coldly waiting—and finally they’d come. Thru the twisted bougainvillea, up over the rotting verandah, leaving a sickening trail of stinking over-sweet honeysuckle, trailing a path of drooping Spanish moss. They didn’t need an invitation—suddenly they were just "here."

Was it outta the primordial Mississippi Delta past—these imaginary ones that came to him late to haunt him in the humid night? Oozing up from the cemetery depths of the Tallahatchie, down from the slow, sluggish Yoknapatawpha.

Faulkner’s vast so-called “living map” outside his study—doubling with the dying aristocracy, crossbreeding with Snopesian monstrous harelipped pinheads. The simple-minded gimpy fools and delta bourbon plantation sex maniacs, the same old shameful, miscegenal, incestuous letters hidden away in secret dusty forgotten ledgers.

Rat-eared, tell-all bibles fluttering—their tissue-thin pages of obscene personal histories. The profane breeder's delta genealogies—the love of Uncle Buck for Uncle Billy. A typical antebellum gay couple.

Going Down on Moses—going down on young mandingo Mississippi men. Like kept boy Percival Brownlee. Who couldn't keep books or farm either. Finding his niche at last, in bed with Uncle Buck. They came flooding into the Rowan Oaks study—all the kept boys riding the sheer tremendous tidal wave of desperate living.

When I asked Faulkner how he wrote, he simply said: “Once there was a Queen. I needed little; nothing the Negroes couldn’t do.”

Without changing the inflection of his voice and apparently without any effort or even design, Faulkner went into a trance: “I became not Negro but "nigger," not secret so much as impenetrable, not servile and not effacing, but enveloping myself in an aura of timeless and stupid impassivity almost like a smell.”

Faulkner looked away from me, and not for the first time: “I’m not only speaking with the tongue of Africa whose blood was pure ten thousand years ago but now with my own anonymous voice mixed enough to produce me."

He spoke thru them—Quentin Compson and Shreve McCannon. Bon the Beautiful whispering in Quentin’s ear, as they made love at night there in the Ole Miss dorm room. “Why this particular young handsome Sambo?” Faulkner asked. “Cause Bon will beat us there because he had the capacity to endure and survive. Thru his son Charles Etienne De Saint Valery Bon...and then Jim Bond his idiot grandson.”

Reaching forward in time—Bon spoke to Quentin just as Quentin spoke to Faulkner. Because Bon the Beautiful had patience even when he didn’t have hope, the long view even when there was nothing to see at the end of it.

Bon the Beautiful was already halfway there...

Colonel Sutpen his slaver delta bourbon plantation father—Eulalia his Haitian mother. Faulkner was one of them—just as most of the Deep South people themselves were and are and would become someday. Creole representatives of a race alien and new—with a different appearance. An alien race enslaved—waiting for the whiteys to catch up. Because white trash was afraid of the alien race.

And so, late that night, sitting at his desk—Faulkner talked about his own delta blues battleground. The scene of his own vanquishment and the mausoleum of his own defeat.

He sat there at his desk—becoming his own selfprogenitive father. Reimagining the generations of his family, changing the spelling of his surname as Lucas did. Faulkner became his own ungendered progenitor—and his visitors at night helped him, guided him, told him stories to tell.

He began figuratively begetting and reconceiving his own fathers in advance across new creolized generations. Creating himself as Flem Snopes did—out of nothing, nowhere.

Like Bon the Beautiful, Faulkner started becoming philoprogenitive in the humid, breathing, delta moment. He started writing texts within texts—telling stories within stories. He began tracing them back to Lucius Quintus Carothers McCaslin who populated the ledgers with miscegenation, incest and a genealogical record of his cynical, seminal “Father’s will.”

Faulkner became son of Uncle Buck, husband of Uncle Buddy, lover of Percival Brownlee. Had they ever told him to do or not do anything that he ever paid any attention to? But still he listened to them, late at night.

They came drifting out of the fetid swamp, across the lawn & up over the decaying front porch—the Mississippi boyz gaunt, lean, hard, tireless and desperate; the Snopes youth thick, soft-looking, the apparent embodiment of the ultimate and supreme reluctance and inertia.

He became both Creole heir and prototype simultaneously of all the delta and river bottoms and Yoknapatawpha itself which fathered all the rest of them and their kind, myriad, countless, faceless, even nameless now except himself who fathered himself, intact and complete, contemptuous, as old Carothers must have been, of all blood black white yellow or red, including his own.

On those nights the old curse of his fathers, the old haughty ancestral pride entered Faulkner. Based not on any value and honor. But from wrong and shame, descending into him.

Faulkner freed Bon the Beautiful from Sutpen—and then he freed them from the Compsons. He speculated on time and death—wondering if he’d just invented himself or something else did, giving himself an illusion of Nobel Prize greatness?

Eventually Faulkner was forgotten, his pride and belief in a legend about the South, the land he had wrestled from Yoknapatawpha and tamed. And so I found myself in Mississippi that night—not the old Mississippi but the Yoknapatawpha living map inside Faulkner’s head.

Yoknapatawpha leaned down over Rowan Oaks that night, not with a quality dangerous—but profoundly brooding, secretly tremulous, unattentive. Where Faulkner had sat in this separate lurking-place, pretending to be impartial and omniscient. That's where I sat that night…

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