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The Town: A Novel of the Snopes Family Mass Market Paperback – February 12, 1961

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

This is the second volume of Faulkner's trilogy about the Snopes family, his symbol for the grasping, destructive element in the post-bellum South.

Like its predecessor The Hamlet and its successor The Mansion, The Town is completely self-contained, but it gains resonance from being read with the other two. The story of Flem Snopes' ruthless struggle to take over the town of Jefferson, Mississippi, the book is rich in typically Faulknerian episodes of humor and of profundity.

About the Author

William Faulkner was born in New Albany, Mississippi, on September 25, 1897. His family was rooted in local history: his great-grandfather, a Confederate colonel and state politician, was assassinated by a former partner in 1889, and his grandfather was a wealth lawyer who owned a railroad. When Faulkner was five his parents moved to Oxford, Mississippi, where he received a desultory education in local schools, dropping out of high school in 1915. Rejected for pilot training in the U.S. Army, he passed himself off as British and joined the Canadian Royal Air Force in 1918, but the war ended before he saw any service. After the war, he took some classes at the University of Mississippi and worked for a time at the university post office. Mostly, however, he educated himself by reading promiscuously.

Faulkner had begun writing poems when he was a schoolboy, and in 1924 he published a poetry collection, The Marble Faun, at his own expense. His literary aspirations were fueled by his close friendship with Sherwood Anderson, whom he met during a stay in New Orleans. Faulkner's first novel, Soldier’s Pay, was published in 1926, followed a year later by Mosquitoes, a literary satire. His next book, Flags in the Dust, was heavily cut and rearranged at the publisher’s insistence and appeared finally as Sartoris in 1929. In the meantime he had completed The Sound and the Fury, and when it appeared at the end of 1929 he had finished Sanctuary and was ready to begin writing As I Lay Dying. That same year he married Estelle Oldham, whom he had courted a decade earlier.

Although Faulkner gained literary acclaim from these and subsequent novels—Light in August (1932), Pylon (1935), Absalom, Absalom! (1936), The Unvanquished (1938), The Wild Palms (1939), The Hamlet (1940), and Go Down, Moses (1942)—and continued to publish stories regularly in magazines, he was unable to support himself solely by writing fiction. he worked as a screenwriter for MGM, Twentieth Century-Fox, and Warner Brothers, forming a close relationship with director Howard Hawks, with whom he worked on To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, and Land of the Pharaohs, among other films. In 1944 all but one of Faulkner's novels were out of print, and his personal life was at low ebb due in part to his chronic heavy drinking. During the war he had been discovered by Sartre and Camus and others in the French literary world. In the postwar period his reputation rebounded, as Malcolm Cowley's anthology The Portable Faulkner brought him fresh attention in America, and the immense esteem in which he was held in Europe consolidated his worldwide stature.

Faulkner wrote seventeen books set in the mythical Yoknapatawpha County, home of the Compson family in The Sound and the Fury. “No land in all fiction lives more vividly in its physical presence than this county of Faulkner’s imagination,” Robert Penn Warren wrote in an essay on Cowley’s anthology. “The descendants of the old families, the descendants of bushwhackers and carpetbaggers, the swamp rats, the Negro cooks and farm hands, the bootleggers and gangsters, tenant farmers, college boys, county-seat lawyers, country storekeepers, peddlers—all are here in their fullness of life and their complicated interrelations.” In 1950, Faulkner traveled to Sweden to accept the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature. In later books—Intruder in the Dust (1948), Requiem for a Nun (1951), A Fable (1954), The Town (1957), The Mansion (1959), and The Reivers (1962)—he continued to explore what he had called “the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself,” but did so in the context of Yoknapatawpha’s increasing connection with the modern world. He died of a heart attack on July 6, 1962.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 371 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 12, 1961)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394701844
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394701844
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,826,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in 1897 in New Albany, Mississippi, William Faulkner was the son of a family proud of their prominent role in the history of the south. He grew up in Oxford, Mississippi, and left high school at fifteen to work in his grandfather's bank.

Rejected by the US military in 1915, he joined the Canadian flyers with the RAF, but was still in training when the war ended. Returning home, he studied at the University of Mississippi and visited Europe briefly in 1925.

His first poem was published in The New Republic in 1919. His first book of verse and early novels followed, but his major work began with the publication of The Sound and the Fury in 1929. As I Lay Dying (1930), Sanctuary (1931), Light in August (1932), Absalom, Absalom! (1936) and The Wild Palms (1939) are the key works of his great creative period leading up to Intruder in the Dust (1948). During the 1930s, he worked in Hollywood on film scripts, notably The Blue Lamp, co-written with Raymond Chandler.

William Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949 and the Pulitzer Prize for The Reivers just before his death in July 1962.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Steve on August 21, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Town is the second volume of Faulkner's Snopes trilogy, picking up the story from the moment of Flem Snopes's arrival in Jefferson, Mississippi. With the foundation firmly laid in The Hamlet, Faulkner is free to delve deep into the character of Flem, the volatile Snopes-Varner dynamic, and the fascinating interaction between Eula, Gavin Stevens, and Linda Snopes, the pawn in her father's plan to take over Jefferson. Not surprisingly, another host of Snopes parade onto the scene; but it is Flem and his underhanded, diabolical shenanigans that make this novel a joy to read. The ending is both humorous and seriously disturbing, paving the way for the Fall of the House of Snopes in The Mansion. One note: while the book jacket claims The Town may be read on its own, I would highly discourage it; trek through The Hamlet first before launching into it--it is well worth your time.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dave Deubler on November 10, 2007
Format: Turtleback
County Attorney Gavin Stevens and his relationships with Eula and Linda Snopes provide the centerpiece for this rambling, reconstructed narrative of the rise of the ignoble Snopes clan in the Town of Jefferson, Mississippi. The narration comes through the viewpoints of Stevens, his younger nephew Charles Mallison, and sewing machine salesman and all-round busybody V.K. Ratliffe. Stevens' rivalry with Mayor De Spain dominates the first section of the book, and shows how irrationally an educated man can behave when he is blinded by desire; any reader with an ounce of sensitivity will surely squirm at Faulkner's skill in combining drama and farce here. Later Stevens turns his attention to "saving" Eula's daughter Linda from a life of "Snopesdom" and continues making a fool of himself in the process. All the while, the inscrutable Flem Snopes continues on the acquisitive path he established in the first volume, The Hamlet, now setting his sights firmly on De Spain's bank. Can the sympathetic lawyer save Linda, or even himself?

Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County novels are among the best that American literature has to offer, and the Snopes trilogy is certainly no exception. Jefferson is populated with unforgettable characters, including (besides the above-mentioned) the many additions to the vermin-like Snopes clan - Eck, Montgomery Ward, I.O., and Wallstreet Panic Snopes. Some of these characters will turn up in other Faulkner novels as well, and collectively the books enrich each other, building up a depth of shared experience. Although Faulkner's focus is on men, and his women are often either absent or troublesome, this volume's focus on obsessive relationships makes this a fine selection for women readers as well - much more so than the horse-trading of The Hamlet, for example. And while this isn't the Master's very best work, it still easily rates 5 stars.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John Cullom on March 21, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the middle book of the Snopes trilogy, and it seems like Faulkner has significantly changed his perception of the Snopeses. The Town and the Mansion were written much later than the Hamlet, and it's clear that they're written by a more complex person. It seems that the Jefferson of The Hamlet has an idealized honor that is being stolen away by the invasion of the amoral Snopeses. However, by the Town, the honor held by the locals is shown to be largely in their own opinion. We do see something slipping away, but it's not altogether clear that it's worth preserving. The shift makes for a much more interesting book.

Additionally, there's the maturation of Eula Varner, something beautiful in the South if not altogether pristine, and she is lost in this middle section of the trilogy. Her suicide says something about the South's willfull destruction, the outgrowth of a deal with the devil, but it takes some further mulling to fully absorb her.

There are three first person narrators guiding the reader through the news of The Town. Unfortunately, one of them, Charles Mallison, is an enormous yawn. Faulkner is usually fantastic with the first person children (Sound and the Fury, The Unvanquished), but his heart isn't in this one. Fortunately, the others are much more interesting and make the novel fly. Gavin Stevens is similar to father Compson in Sound and the Fury, and I believe one of the mouthpieces for Faulkner himself.

The Snopes trilogy is interesting in that it shows the maturation of a writer and the deepening complexity of his views. This trilogy didn't end up in the vein in which it was started, and that's a very good thing. Not my favorite Faulkner, but ambitious as hell, and that's the real reason to read him in the first place.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By T. Scherff on October 20, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
'the town" is the second book in a trilogy written by faulkner on the snopes family. the 1st and second books were written almost 25 years apart. it is strongly suggested that you read the 1st in the series, "the hamlet", first.

in this book faulkner brings the infamous flem snopes from frenchmen's bend to the city of jefferson and traces his steps up the social ladder from superintendent to president of the local bank. The story is told thru the eyes of three characters ranging in age from a child to an older adult. the story deals with the thwarted lover of eula snopes, gavin stevens who attempts to free eula's daughter from the shadow of snopes name.

as usual, Faulkner finds ways to make the story telling interesting. He does so by having the tale told by two "observers" and one participant. The youngest, charles mallison, tells what he sees and what he hears occurred before he was born as told top him by his cousin gowan. He is given the task of speaking for the town and his perspective is objective and not tainted by personal feelings. Gavin stevens and v k Ratliff on the other hand speak only from their personal perspective. Faulkner takes the opportunity to use each of their differing points of view to leave open a debate as to what motivates flem. As usual, we never see into flem and can only speculate like stevens and Ratliff on why he does what he does.

What we do see is flem ridding the town of the baser elements of his own family while he attemps to raise his own moral and social standing. He uses and destroys everyone around him to get what he wants. At the end, he is all alone.
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