94 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Introduction to the World of Faulkner
I first bought "Go Down, Moses" for an undergraduate course in American Literature, read "The Bear" as required, and quickly forgot about the rest of the book. This Thanksgiving I picked it up again as a replacement for my usual airport-bookstore holiday reading. Thank goodness! Nothing like some heavy-duty race and environmental issues to spice up...
Published on December 5, 2003 by D. Anderson
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Signs of Later Life
Faulkner moved to New Orleans in 1925 at the age of 27 determined to write fiction. Up to then he fancied himself a poet. During his six month stay in New Orleans he published a group of "sketches" with the main New Orleans literary magazine, The Double Dealer. He also sold sixteen signed stories and sketches to The Times-Picayune.
Faulkner spent a portion of...
Published 21 months ago by Ryan C. Holiday
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94 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Introduction to the World of Faulkner,
This review is from: Go Down, Moses (Paperback)I first bought "Go Down, Moses" for an undergraduate course in American Literature, read "The Bear" as required, and quickly forgot about the rest of the book. This Thanksgiving I picked it up again as a replacement for my usual airport-bookstore holiday reading. Thank goodness! Nothing like some heavy-duty race and environmental issues to spice up your turkey and stuffing.
Faulkner has always been a pleasant read for me, because I find it quite challenging. "Go Down, Moses" is no exception. In particular, the genealogy of the McCaslin-Edmonds-Beauchamp family causes no end of confusion. You will encounter characters named McCaslin Edmonds, Carothers McCaslin, Carothers McCaslin Edmonds, etc... (I found drawing a family tree helped me immensely)! Furthermore, the narrative is hardly linear; characters jump around in space and time, tell stories of other peoples' experiences in the midst of their own reminiscences, and in general relate their tales in a manner that will keep you constantly flipping back and forth through the book. That being said, I happen to *enjoy* books like this, where the reader is not a passive recipient of information but actively engaged in the process of determining plot, characters, and truth. I like this style because it reminds me of how we construct narratives in our own minds. We go off on tangents, we ramble endlessly before returning suddenly to our original subject, we remember things as they occur to us more often than we do in chronological order. Faulkner is more psychologist than novelist: he puts us inside the minds of his characters and lets them tell the story for themselves. If you want a clear-cut, action-driven story instead of a thoughtful and intimate history, Faulkner is not for you.
For those still with me, the particular thoughtful and intimate history portrayed in "Go Down, Moses" is that of a Mississippi plantation family and their relationships with their slaves, their land, and their own histories from the antebellum era to the Depression. As many prior reviewers have pointed out, this is indeed a book about race, and I have yet to see a more chilling, touching, and humanly accurate description of race relations in the South. But in my mind an equally crucial, yet often-overlooked, theme of "Go Down, Moses" is the issue of man's relation to land, ownership, and the natural world. Faulkner's descriptions of the virgin Mississippi forest and the vanishing Delta region are both beautiful and powerful, and I think contribute equally to the book in providing it with its distinctive flavor and voice.
As one reviewer has previously mentioned, reading "The Bear" as a standalone story is simply not sufficient. For one, it is the longest section by far in the book, and new readers of Faulkner may easily lose track of the story, or just as easily lose interest altogether. Furthermore, the remainder of this excellent work provides a framework for an understanding and identification with the characters and the landscape of rural Mississippi that they inhabit. Many people - including myself - initially mistake "Go Down, Moses" for a collection of short stories, and this is certainly understandable. Each section of the book *can* be read as a single story, but I wouldn't recommend it. I would recommend (as I did this second time around), reading all the sections in order, starting with "Was". I think this narrative is as fine as any for demonstrating Faulkner's unusual narrative style and flowing, stream-of-consciousness language. If you like "Was," you will almost certainly like the rest of this book; if you like the whole book, you will almost certainly like the majority of Faulkner's works (particularly "The Sound and the Fury," which I cut my Faulkner-loving teeth on in high school).
In the final analysis, however, I think this book serves as the best possible introduction to Faulkner. If you're not sure how you'll feel about his writing, you certainly can read a few sections and see what you think, without feeling completely lost. Faulkner's writing is in top form here, and his characters are compelling, touching, and as always somewhat flawed - they're so human, it's enough to make you... keep reading.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard, challenging ... will bust your preconceptions,
By A Customer
This review is from: Go Down, Moses (Paperback)I read Go Down Moses in 1996 before taking a trip to Mississippi. I had never read Faulkner before and had only one criterion for picking a book of his: it had to take place in the mythical Yoknapatawpha County. I picked this one off the library shelf.
For any non-southern American whose sole exposure to what happened there was from history books, this should forever shatter the pat preconceptions and simplistic black and white (no pun intended!) formulas they were taught.
The book plunges you into a vast panorama of ambiguities and contradictions. It was clear to me from the first paragraph that Faulkner was a genius. In the whole history of literature, he surely stands among a select few at the very pinnacle of greatness.
Go Down Moses is a tremendous struggle to get through. Some parts are straightforward and easy, but there are others that you can't hope to make literal sense of. You're bombarded by its twisted grammar. Its frantic confusion. Its endlessly unresolved sentences. But through these, Faulkner ultimately conveys the pain of history -- past and present. The emotion of that pain seems more real to him than the specific incidents it sprang from. Why else would a book begun in pre-Civil War Mississippi -- entirely skip it -- picking up again a generation later?
This book is about the South. Having read it, Faulkner walked beside me every step of the way I took through his state. But this book also has a sub-theme that should not be overlooked. Faulkner was a profound environmentalist, although sharply contrasted with how we usually think of that term. Hunters don't much fit the mold of environmentalism -- and Faulkner was an avid one of that lot. So, in that sense, along with all the sociological, he can shake you up pretty good! Go Down Moses contains some of the most wrenching descriptions you could hope to find on the loss of wilderness. There is nothing ambiguous in his portrayal of that loss. Faulkner may confound everything you thought you believed of Southern sociology, but in an environmental sense, he leaves no room for confusion. Leave those trees standing!
This book will grip you; I can't imagine it having a lesser effect. Like all truly great art, it should change you forever.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tremendous book with brilliant imagery and emotion,
By A Customer
This review is from: Go Down, Moses (Paperback)I had never read any Faulkner until I picked this off my bookshelf while browsing. Out of my wife's american literature classes has come what I feel to be one the best written books I have read in quite some time. The people are tortured, alive and very well described. The races are diagnosed in merciless precision and scrutiny, the unfortunate frustrations that plague them both. (there don't seem to be many other types of people in the stories except a few Indians) But this is art, literature the way it is supposed to be written. The language of Faulkner literally soars off the page with insight, feeling and relevance to the story. These Southern lives are mixed together, bringing forth a mulatto-rainbow mix of wonder and mystery and deep appreciation, a well developed reverence for life, its pain and people, suffering through a walk on the blessed earth. Truly great writing as compassionate as it is accurately reflecting the Southern world, post slave to this century through the eyes of a family smorgasbord of bloodlines and personalites. If you want to enjoy reading and have wondered at times why you are wasting your time on cultured pulp, this book will set you back on the right path.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get a Family Tree,
This review is from: Go Down, Moses (Paperback)This book is undeniably one of the greatest novels I have ever read. Never would I have made it past the fifth page if it hadn't been 1) required reading for an undergrad course in college; 2) for the help of the almighty Cliff Notes. Actually, this is one book where my professor recommended everybody have the Cliff Notes. I didn't understand why until we started reading it. Then he told us to take out the Cliff Notes and turn to the family tree. Ah, yes, this helps make sense of all of those people, as well as help explain the complicated relationships between them.
I definitely think this book would be great for group discussion. A dedicated individual could no doubt garner symbolism, themes, and the basic plot on his or her own. But the story is so complex, I think you get a lot more out of it in a group, where the ideas can be shared and brainstormed.
Whatever the case, I recommend reading this book. Faulkner's look at the people and their environment of the South is amazing, and it is one of those books that you will find is often alluded to in other works. Spectacular book.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't just read "The Bear"!!!!,
This review is from: Go Down, Moses (Paperback)Please, please do not pass over the other fine stories in GO DOWN, MOSES and go straight to "The Bear." This gem means much more when illuminated by the other parts of the text, and only by reading the entire book can you fully understand the meaning of Ike's repudiation of the McCaslin land. I recently completed a Faulkner course, and of all of his "genius" novels--"As I Lay Dying," "Light in August," "Go Down, Moses," "The Sound and the Fury," and "Absalom! Absalom!"--I believe that this one has the strongest emotional core. Read the whole thing; your experience will be much richer.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard lives in Mississippi,
By A Customer
This review is from: Go Down Moses (Modern Library) (Hardcover)This was a book I'd been meaning to read for years. It was decades ahead of its time, and today it is considered by many to be the quintessential work of American environmental fiction. "The Bear" is the chapter most often mentioned in discussions about this novel, and rightfully so: it makes some eloquently powerful statements about race, honor, technology (even before the concept came into common usage), and about humans' relationship to the land. The prose is often difficult, confusing, dense, and vague, but the rewards generally outweigh the hard work needed to read this book. For the most part, the other stories lack the intensity and coherence of "The Bear," but I found "Delta Autumn" to be every bit as accessible and potent, and it accomplishes this in a hundred fewer pages. I recommend the book, although I don't think it's necessary to read it in its entirety. Stretch out in front of a blazing fire on an old bearskin rug and let your mind drift back a hundred years.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Opaque and Exuberant,
This review is from: Go Down, Moses (Paperback)Go Down Moses was my latest stab at Faulkner. I'd certainly recommend, as someone before me has, a college course or reading group study of this book, and just about any other great Faulkner work. That being said, even a marginal understanding of this book (like mine) is worth the time and effort.
Go Down Moses is a collection of temporally fragmented novellas and stories concerning the McCaslin family's past, present, and future legacy in a southern town. Thematically, Faulkner tackles a bevy of issues--race, slavery, paternity, masculinity, the natural and supernatural. The stories are loosely centered around Isaac McCaslin, descendant of Carothers McCaslin--a plantation owner.
The best regarded and most complex story is considered to be "The Bear." Over a hundred pages long, it follows (often meandering) the hunting team that includes young Isaac, ex-Civil War officers, and a half Choctaw/half African hunter (Sam Fathers) as they obsessively pursue the invincible bear Old Ben through the years. Bursting with imagery and symbolism, "The Bear" will please Faulkner fans and hunters alike.
My personal favorites are "Was" and "The Fire and the Hearth." Lucas, half-black and the oldest living McCaslin save Isaac, searches for buried gold on Carothers Edmonds's plantation, where he farms, while his wife, fed up with his mania, gives him an ultimatum. An unlikely and graceful story of marital bonds and family values, and the triumph of humanity and dignity over birthright
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faulkner's most accesible work,
This review is from: Go Down, Moses (Paperback)While it may sound like torture to some, I've read William Faulkner's Go Down, Moses something in the neighborhood of 20 times. It's a novel I come back to every nine months or so. Every reading uncovers some new detail or clue that I managed to miss. My first copy is filled with margin notes - I had to buy another just to have a readable edition.
When it comes to Faulkner lovers, most laud over the more recognizable works, such as The Sound and Fury, Absalom, Absalom, As I Lay Dying, or The Hamlet. These are all incredible works and would most likely make the "top 10" of just about every Faulkner reader I know. But, for me, none of these match Go Down, Moses in terms of its ability to encapsulate the complexities of race, past and interculturality. However, if I'm being honest, I must acknowledge that the reason why this novel may not garner the attention of Faulkner's more recognized works is due to the fact that many don't recognize Moses as a novel.
Like my entry for #9 on the top 10, Go Down, Moses is a collection of related stories. While Faulkner always considered the collection as a novel, his publishers (against the author's wishes), originally released the work as Go Down, Moses and Other Stories. And while the "chapters" within the novel are capable of standing as independent works, the beauty is how the seven work together to form an epic centered on the life of one figure, Isaac McCaslin, who represents of all the contradictions and ambiguities of the Southern paradigm.
"Isaac McCaslin, 'Uncle Ike', past seventy and nearer eighty than he ever corroborated any more, a widower now and uncle to half a county and father to no one."
The "county" is, of course, Yoknapatawpha, the "stamp of native soil" of Faulkner's fictional Mississippi landscape. The time ranges from just prior to the Civil War to the middle part of the 20th Century in the midst of the ever-changing "New South." These movements in time are not linear, but follow a narrative consciousness, looking for clues of memory to solve a mystery of miscegenation, murder and legend.
For the work, Faulkner builds on previous novels, incorporating familiar faces (Major de Spain, Thomas Sutpen, and General Compson to name a few), further mapping out his intricate web of family histories. He weaves local hunting legend and Native American myth, Southern "cracker" culture and African American folklore, all the while underscoring, with no apology, the fallacies surrounding the racial prejudices inflicted on the culture of the South.
The work is riveting and, unlike many of Faulkner's works, which many consider too dense to be enjoyed, Go Down, Moses is accessible to most readers. For those who have been intimidated by Faulkner's prose, I believe that my #8 choice for the top 10 is a good place to start.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New Orleans Sketches,
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This review is from: New Orleans Sketches (Paperback)This isn't a REAL review just a suggestion for all those fellow Faulkner fans out there who may not have come across this book, a collection of some of his first published writing for the New Orleans newspaper. This book is a jewel and puts Faulkner fans on alert that wonderful writing is coming down the road. It shows to me that he was born a great writer. He wasn't merely developing his talent. He was born this way. I'm an old lady and have loved Faulkner for years but I never heard of this book until recently. Beginning writers have so much to learn from him and those who don't write and have no plans to but love to read will find Faulkner in a special, wonderful category all by himself. And this book is a wonderful place to begin an exploration of this great writer.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "You ain't looked right yet",
This review is from: Go Down, Moses (Paperback)Go Down Moses is by far Faulkner's greatest piece. It is the most accessible of his works and contains some of the most beautiful prose of American literature. The implications that Faulkner suggests throughout the book are that we must refocus our minds, hearts and eyes to see the brotherhood of "communal anonymity."
Faulkner's piece is arguably the most beautiful works of American literatrue. Go Down Moses is a must for all people who believe in hope, justice, and love.
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Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner (Paperback - Nov. 1990)