Thu, 26 Oct 2006

An actual paragraph from William Faulkner’s short story “The Bear”; punctuation reproduced accurately:

“More men than that one Buck and Buddy to fumble-heed that truth so mazed for them that spoke it and so confused for them that heard yet still there was 1865:” and he

On Reading Faulkner’s “The Bear”.

A story should not fill a reader with rage,
Nor make him groan deeply on turning each page
(I squarely believe), nor should it make him crave
To go down in person to its author’s grave,
Exhume him, and slap the hell out of his bones
While chanting “Quit fucking with me” in shrill tones.

A premise straightforward and easy to grip,
The tale of a young boy in Old Mississip,
A bear, a good dog, and an Indian scout –
That’s all that the story need have been about.
And then the bear’s dead, and you think, “What the hell?
There’s eighty more pages here. What’s left to tell?”

There’s only the whole fucking long history
Of Dixie’s decline in a tragical key
From Chickasaw Indians savage and free
To gold-hungry Spaniards arriving by sea
To Jackson to Longstreet to Robert E. Lee
And then Reconstruction thick-strewn with debris
And low-blooded Yankee carpetbaggery
And Emancipation and blacks on a spree
And noble white gentlemen bending the knee
And noble white ladies consumed with ennui
And then and then and then and then endlessly
And much of it proudly punctuation-free
And subclauses dangling artistically
Like possum-tails severed and strung on a tree
And thinking “How much more of this can there be?
Yet still there are pages and pages:” and he

PS. It turns out that there are two versions of “The Bear” available – the one I read, from Go Down, Moses, and another version, identical except that it excises the sixty-pages of run-on sentences known as “section 4”. I recommend the latter version.

2 Responses to “On reading Faulkner’s “The Bear”.”

  1. 1 John March 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this. I thought I was the only one who rung the “What the fuck?” bell a hundred times whilst reading section 4. “and he” I mean, what in the world is that? I found it ridiculous and a huge waste of time. Everything but section 4 was great I thought. Some strange editing choices were made to keep that one in. Maybe I’m not intelligent enough to enjoy it, or haven’t read enough literature, but it seemed like a pile of shit. All for the poem, I am. Good stuff.

  2. 2 Shannon April 14, 2013 at 11:09 am

    I love everything about this poem! It gave me a good laugh while I’m struggling through The Bear for American Lit. Thanks!

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Michael A. Charles is a writer, animator, and musician currently living in the Vancouver area. He used to be the singer and guitarist for the band known as Sea Water Bliss.

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Garson Hampfield, Crossword Inker