A long time ago, I read “The Power and the Glory” by Graham Greene. For some reason, I hardly remember why, I disliked it and wrote it off as a spy novel, a thriller, a best seller. So for the next many years I avoided reading Graham Greene while reading just about every other literary writer in the world. Then finally about five years ago, after having read some good things about “The End of the Affair” and “A Burnt-Out Case”, I decided to read these novels. This time I really appreciated Greene’s straightforward style. There was nothing flashy about his writing, but he had these wonderful plots that kept me completely involved. But the real turning point was reading “Brighton Rock”, an early Greene novel. I loved this story about these young punks driving around Brighton, England. This was the best novel I had read in years. So for the next few years, I read nearly everything Graham Greene wrote. Every book by Greene I read captivated me. Now, unfortunately, I’ve run out of Graham Greene novels to read.
As a child, I was not interested in literature at all. The only books I really appreciated as a boy were “Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain. At college, even though I was majoring in mathematics, I decided to take a course in Contemporary Literature. One of the books we were assigned was “Absalom, Absalom” by William Faulkner. This over 400 page novel is notorious for containing some of Faulkner’s most convoluted page-and-a-half long sentences. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get through this novel. I had to drop the Contemporary Literature course, because of “Absalom, Absalom”. The next semester, I again enrolled in Contemporary Literature. This time “Light in August” was the Faulkner novel on the reading list. “Light in August” was much more reasonably written without the long run-on sentences, and I actually enjoyed reading it. I completed the Contemporary Literature course successfully. After that, William Faulkner was my favorite author. I read and enjoyed most of Faulkner’s novels in the next few years after that.
A few months ago, after having not read Faulkner for many, many years, I decided to listen on my drives to and from work to the audio CD of “Light in August” which I still considered William Faulkner’s finest novel. This time the novel just completely hit me the wrong way. This time all of Faulkner’s deep and dark ponderings and reckonings about the possibility that his character Joe Christmas might have “mixed” blood seemed like little more than ill-disguised racism to me. I suppose one could excuse Faulkner because he wrote these novels in the 1930’s in the deep South. But already by the 1930s, there were many people who had more progressive racial attitudes. And I am not about to forgive Faulkner for these Southern attitudes and their deliberate ignorance, after these have done so much damage to the United States during the last ten years.
Have any of you had your opinion of an author drastically change? Please let me know.