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New edition offers five years of Faulkner

By Sam Cornish / December 6, 1985



Novels 1930-1935, by William Faulkner (edited and with notes by Joseph Blotner and Noel Polk). New York: The Library of America. 1,056 pp. $27.50. ``Novels 1930-1935'' contains an unusual quartet of Faulkner's fiction: an unlikely pairing of ``Pylon'' and ``Sanctuary'' with ``As I Lay Dying'' and ``Light in August.''

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``Pylon,'' one of Faulkner's lesser-known novels, is about a group of aviators in a small Southern town. ``Sanctuary,'' a Gothic gangster tale of kidnapping and rape, introduces the gangster Popeye and the debutante Temple Drake. ``As I Lay Dying'' is the epic journey of a Mississippi family to a gravesite through flood and fire -- a novel both poetic and experimental. ``Light in August'' is the story of Joe Christmas, a mulatto and victim of his mixed racial heritage.

Together, these novels represent an achievement over a period of five remarkable years in American literature and in the life of William Faulkner, and the merits of this volume are several. Although they are available in other editions, this new one is the best value. Whereas most new hard-covers are stiffly bound (risking a cracked binding upon opening) and the paperback editions are apt to yellow and crumble in a very short time, this edition is printed on acid-free paper with a hardback rayon cloth b inding and bookmark. And, since the other individual hard-covers cost between $12 and $15 per novel, the Library of America edition is a bargain.

The combination of Faulkner classics -- ``Light in August,'' ``As I Lay Dying'' -- coupled with the underrated ``Sanctuary'' and lesser-known ``Pylon,'' encompasses the range, quality, and scope of Faulkner's work over the period. The editors of this volume, Joseph Blotner and Noel Polk, have enabled the publisher to issue a text that reflects the writer's intent. Blotner (author of ``Faulkner: A Biography'') and Polk (editor of ``The Sound and the Fury: The Original Text'') have scrutinized manuscripts , typescripts, galleys, and other published editions to come up with the versions seen here.

Although the differences might not, to the general reader, be obvious, the effect is like that of an eminent conductor working with a world-class orchestra and using the composer's original orchestrations.

``Novels 1930-1935'' might have benefited from an introductory essay by the editors to establish the importance of this volume and to explain the selection of these particular novels, but many readers will need none. The quality of the edition, reasonable price, and careful attention to the text make the volume a significant addition to the Library of America collection.