Some of you will be cheering for the Giants this evening, others the Patriots (around here it’s Patriots or nothing, except when it’s Red Sox or Bruins). You may find yourselves cheering opposite teams in front of the same flat-screen TV (from opposite sides of the living room) because New York and New England overlap and you can’t do anything about the geography.
As far as I’m concerned you can have the Super Bowl and whichever team you like. Me, I choose up sides between Hemingway and Faulkner (as if one needed to choose) and it’s Hemingway all the way.
I’ve just been informed that Daughter Number Three has succumbed to the William Faulkner bug as her mother did years ago, and has enrolled in a seminar toward her thesis as an English major (you know—you try to raise up your child in the best way you can, you pray for them, you pay for them, you send them to a good school—and you never know which direction they’ll go). What went wrong?
Her studying Faulkner could be like somebody around these parts cheering the Giants this evening. In her parents’ living room. On their TV.
A person shouldn’t have to choose sides between great authors, you say; why not enjoy them both? But that seems to be how it shakes down between Hemingway and Faulkner. Either you like one and not the other or you just haven’t read them both. Sort of like me with football. I had to do an internet search even to find out who was playing, so why all the fuss?
Part of the contest among literary fans may stem from the alleged feud between the authors themselves. If they couldn’t get along, can we expect ourselves to? Of course not; no more than you football fans can. So enjoy the fight and be satisfied that the Patriots are the best. Unless you’re from New York, God help you.
To help you choose up sides in this clash of titans, read these opening lines from a selection of each. I’ll start with William Faulkner, from the last chapter of The Sound and the Fury (entitled “Dilsey” in my wife’s Portable Faulkner):
The day dawned bleak and chill, a moving wall of gray light out of the northeast which, instead of dissolving into moisture, seemed to disintegrate into minute and venomous particles like dust that, when Dilsey opened the door of the cabin and emerged, needled laterally into her flesh, precipitating not so much a moisture as a substance partaking of the quality of thin, not quite congealed oil. She wore a stiff black straw hat perched upon her turban, and a maroon velvet cape with a border of mangy and anonymous fur above a dress of purple silk, and she stood in the door for a while with her myriad and sunken face lifted to the weather, and one gaunt hand flac-soled as the belly of a fish, then she moved the cape aside and examined the bosom of her gown.”
And Ernest Hemingway, the opening lines of his short story Cat in the Rain:
There were only two Americans stopping at the hotel. They did not know any of the people they passed on the stairs on their way to and from their room. Their room was on the second floor facing the sea. It also faced the public garden and the war monument. There were big palms and green benches in the public garden. In the good weather there was always an artist with his easel. Artists liked the way the palms grew and the bright colors of the hotels facing the gardens and the sea. Italians came from a long way off to look up at the war monument. It was made of bronze and glistened in the rain. It was raining. The rain dripped from the palm trees. Water stood in pools on the gravel paths. The sea broke in a long line in the rain and slipped back down the beach to come up and break again in a long line in the rain. The motor cars were gone from the square by the war monument. Across the square in the doorway of the café a waiter stood looking out at the empty square.
The American wife stood at the window looking out. Outside right under their window a cat was crouched under one of the dripping green tables. The cat was trying to make herself so compact that she would not be dripped on.
‘I’m going down and get that kitty,’ the American wife said.”
You’ll either get this or you won’t. Never mind. Enjoy the game.