The Town, William Faulkner, Random House Inc, 1957, 371 pp
The Town is the second book in Faulkner's Snopes trilogy. The Hamlet, 1940, was the first and according to my notes when I read it eight years ago, was very dark and gave me nightmares. The Town is much lighter in comparison, even humorous in parts. I have now read enough Faulkner to feel less of a stranger in his imaginary town of Jefferson and in Yoknapatawpha County.
The Snopes are a family of white trash degenerates who came into the county trading horses. One of them by the name of Flem was a sharp trader in all regards. He managed to marry into one of the established families and become vice president of one of the two banks in Jefferson. He is rich and getting richer in The Town, but these Shopeses are regarded by Jefferson's residents as a plague of locusts or a nest of vipers.
The novel is at heart a love story between lawyer Gavin Stevens, who symbolizes virtue and probity, and the wife of Flem Snopes, who symbolizes something like "woman" as an archetype. In the time period, which is 1940s and 1950s, the Baptists and Methodists of the town represent the Southern version of hypocritical Puritan morality. I found this book as compelling in its plot as some of Faulkner's earlier novels, such as Absalom, Absalom.
No doubt everyone noticed this before I did, but while reading The Town I realized that much of Faulkner's fiction is an allegory about the decline of America from its original lofty and idealistic ideals. Persons who are freaked out by the current criminal shenanigans of bankers could read The Town and learn that this is not a new phenomenon.
I almost struck this book from my 1957 list, feeling that I just could not take another nightmare. Had I done so, I would have missed an excellent novel.
(The Town is available in paperback, also in hardback as part of a collection, William Faulkner Novels: 1957-1962, by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)