Friday, August 10, 2007

Trapped in Literature

I've found that I can't get the opening line from Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! out of my mind.
From a little after two oclock until almost sundown of the long still hot weary dead September afternoon they sat in what Miss Coldfield still called the office because her father had called it that-a dim hot airless room with the blinds all closed and fastened for forty-three summers because when she was a girl someone had believed that light and moving air carried heat and that dark was always cooler, and which (as the sun shone fuller and fuller on that side of the house) became latticed with yellow slashes full of dust motes which Quentin thought of as being flecks of the dead old dried paint itself blown inward from the scaling blinds as wind might have blown them.
Late yesterday afternoon the children and I were sitting quietly in the living room with the curtains drawn and the lights off barely moving a muscle and I thought about Absalom, Absalom! and how that sentence captured a moment, even for us. We had better sense than to sit where the sun was shining, but keeping the lights off and windows and shades closed did make it seem cooler whether it was just a feeling or truly was. When I first read this book, I felt as I suspect Faulkner intended us to feel, that this scene captured Miss Colfield unquestioningly trapped in the confines of the past and all the traditions it held (and perhaps I, too, am trapped), but the longer I live in this old house, the more I see the wisdom of some of those old ways.

We have air conditioning in other parts of the house. Why everyone was sitting in the living room I just can't tell you, but the natural rhythms of the day and house made it warm, but not completely unpleasant, even with the dangerous heat and humidity. We open the house at night, allowing the cooler night air to enter, then we close the doors and windows as the day warms. When I cook or use the computer, we need the air conditioning late in the day, but in the parts of the house where heating apparatuses are not used the conditions are hot but bearable, though they may be responsible for diversions of literary reverie.

7 comments:

Melora said...

I've never read Faulkner -- that is some sentence! Keeping the blinds and windows closed to try to keep in the last night's cooler air makes sense to me, especially when the outdoors is oven-like.

JoVE said...

I don't have a/c at all. And I agree with closing the curtains, especially when the sun is coming directly in through that particular window. But I keep the windows open and fans on because moving air is more comfortable even if it is hot. On hot days, I end up with a ritual of opening and closing curtains as the sun moves around the house and it is quite effective. I have a window fan in the bedroom that is quite effective at cooling the room once the outside are cools down after dark.

ZBTzahBTzoo said...

Abstract artist Jules Olitski painted "Absalom Passage 18," in the early to mid seventies ('73?). It's my favorite abstract work. I had no idea what or who Absalom was when I first saw the painting, which upon first glance appears to be a giant (much larger than typical) section of concrete sidewalk hung on the museum wall.

I'll finish this thought in a post -- I fear I'm about to babble again!

Stay hydrated, Wisteria.

Susan said...

Faulkner and those irritatingly long sentences. Try some Welty. I am always cold and have the AC set higher than all the males in my house like - but today! with the heat index about 105 -when I walked in house after being outdoors it felt wonderful. (How was that for a long sentence...) You should have one of those Faulkner contests....

Susan said...

Wisteria, it sounds like y'all are surviving the weather okay. I spoke to my parents today, who told me how hot it is.

My favorite Faulkner of late (as in the last 10 years) is Go Down, Moses. I should get acquainted with him again. I read Absalom, Absalom in college, but, alas, that was a while ago.

Wisteria said...

Jove, If the air outside was cooler, then I would open the windows. As it is I can trap cooler air inside. I assure the air is not moving out there. Having no breeze, 70% humidity, 100 degree temperatures, and no clouds makes you want to leave that outside.

Z, I can barely wait to see your entry on Absalom Passage 18. I hope you have a picture because I have never seen it.

Sister Susan, I do love competitions!! Want to join? It could be like Scrabble, only better!

Susan T, We are enduring! We just aren't doing anything outside after 9 or 10 in the morning. I like Go Down Moses, too. It reminds me of the music I could hear when sitting on the back porch that was wafting across the pasture from the Missionary Baptist Church.

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