Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dry September

As some of you know, I've edited a number of crime story anthologies over the years, usually with Marty Greenberg. I grew up reading anthologies. It was a sure way to discover writers new to me, writers whose work was worth pursuing. The great thrill was to come across one of those little masterpieces that that had an almost religious impact on my mind.

One of the problems with editing genre anthologies is that the money is seldom sufficient to buy reprint rights to literary stories. If I had the money, my ideal anthology would be balanced between crime story writers and literary writers including John O'Hara, Dorothy Parker, F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner.

Faulkner in particular There's a story of his called Dry September that is the single most terrifying piece about a lynching short of Richard Wright. All the more terrifying because it is from the white point of view with only a single white objecting to it. You look at the kilers and realize that you are watching a species of sub-humans. It is also, at the same time, a portrait of a small Southern town and a very particular Southern spinster that reminds me of Shirley Jackson.

The language is as evocative and dazzling as any in Light in August or in any of his best novels. It is so dense emotionally that it has the power of a mini-novel.

Well worth the trouble of looking it up.


Steven said...

In teaching Intro to lit, I've used Faulkner, and Wright along with Thomas Wolfe's "The Child by Tiger" and James Baldwin's "Going to Meet the Man" to highlight the concept of theme. Wolfe's "The Face of the War" can be thrown in for the opening scene. Moving stuff.

Anonymous said...

How much more than the typical CF writer does the estate of Faulkner or O'Hara (particularly given the latter's relative obscurity these days) demand? Is it the typical Estate problem, where they tend to be pound foolish?