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Oprah vs. Faulkner

Taking pleasure in a meeting of opposites.

12:00 AM, Jun 17, 2005 • By DAVID SKINNER
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Faulkner being Faulkner, I wanted some interpretive assistance while re-reading Light in August for this article. It turns out that Irving Howe's book-length critical study was not long ago reissued by Ivan R. Dee; even more amazing is that I found it at Borders next to Vintage's special Oprah Book Club set of the three novels chosen for the Summer of Faulkner.

"That men are not free to choose their world and their selves," wrote Howe, and that "the past and present conspire to defeat the eager will is a common notion in Faulkner's books." And, obviously, an uncommon one in the self-help nostrums Oprah sells.

Rather thoughtfully, Oprah's Book Club supplies its members with tips on approaching Faulkner's books. "Be patient," the website advises, and "Be prepared to re-read." But if they're coming straight from the scented-soap world of Winfrey-land, these readers are going to be absolutely lost when they arrive in Yoknapatawpha County. To which I say--lest you thought I'd spend this whole piece complaining about Oprah and her book club--Good!

David Skinner is an assistant managing editor at The Weekly Standard.