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Mosquitoes by William Faulkner
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Mosquitoes (1927)

by William Faulkner

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Showing 5 of 5
Not my favorite Faulkner by any means. An early work of his about a day-long outing by a loosely-knit group. The heat and the infernal mosquitoes add to atmosphere. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
Rating: 3* of five

The Publisher Says: Mosquitoes centers around a colorful assortment of passengers, out on a boating excursion from New Orleans. The rich and the aspiring, social butterflies and dissolute dilettantes are all easy game for Faulkner's barbed wit in this engaging high-spirited novel which offers a fascinating glimpse of Faulkner as a young artist.

"It approaches in the first half and reaches in the second half a brilliance that you can rightfully expect only in the writings of a few men. It is full of the fine kind of swift and lusty writing that comes from a healthy, fresh pen."--Lillian Hellman, New York Herald Tribune

My Review: Well, that's over. And thank goodness for that. I loves me some Faulkner, but this is a mediocre book.

It's an hour-by-hour, day-by-day account of a Lake Pontchartrain boat ride, peopled by the louche and the bohemian second-ranking artistes (spoken in a veddy, veddy affected tone) who infest the ever-pretentious city of New Orleans. (I mean, really, the place is a swamp, it's rotting around its own ears, it's poor as dirt, and it's so effin' hot that even mosquitoes have the sense to move out to the lakeshore for the summer. THIS is a place to build a city?)

It's a roman à clef, taking its "inspiration" from an actual boat ride Faulkner went on in New Orleans before moving to Paris. Where, not coincidentally, Faulkner met Sylvia Beach, who published Ulysses, the famously banned-in-Murrika sexytime (for its day in the early 1920s) novel that "inspired" the hour-by-hour day-by-day format of this book.

Also not coincidentally, Joyce's masterwork (which I don't much like) "inspired" Uncle Bill to put in a lot of sex-talk, including *gasp* explicitly lesbian desires!! Maud Martha, bring the sal volatile and loosen my stays, the wimminfolk are runnin' amok!

Now that might seem a tad mean-spirited for a man writing 87 years later, to go after such a very surprising and open sexual transgression of the day, but trust me when I tell you: The roman à clef aspects of the book completely render the daringness of the author's choices into tawdry score-settling and Bret-Easton-Ellisy tittle-tattle.

Want to know why I say that? I'm tellin' ya anyway: Every character on the damn boat (the Nausicaa, "Burner of Ships," get it huh get it get it? Faulkner's bein' all erudite an' stuff!) is a loser, and Faulkner writes himself in as the only "successful" artist around:
"Anyway, I didn't go in swimming where the man got drowned. I was waiting for them, and I got talking to a funny man. A little kind of black man--"
"A nigger?"
"No, he was a white man, except he was awful sunburned and kind of shabby dressed--no necktie and hat. Say, he said some funny things to me. He said I had the best digestion he ever saw, and he said if the straps of my dress was to break I'd devastate the country. He said he was a liar by profession, and he made good money at it, enough to own a Ford as soon as he got it paid out. I think he was crazy. Not dangerous, just crazy."
The speaker goes on to remember his name was something like Walker or Foster, but whatever it was it started with an "F" like her friend's middle name, Frances.

Ye gods.

Well, it was only his second novel. And he'd just come home from Paris when he (most probably) wrote it, so he was still digesting the *huge* bolus of Kulcher he'd swallowed and wallowed in. He was young and this is a very young-man-overachiever kind of a novel. It's not the worst book I've ever read, and not even the least impressive Faulkner I've read (no fan of Wild Palms, me).

But it's just too good to dismiss and just too clever-clever to enjoy and just too coltish to admire in the context of the Faulkner ouevre. Neither fish nor fowl, as Mama said of suchlike creations.

Perfect title, then: Mosquitoes.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

A few other good quotes:

“Talk, talk, talk: the utter and heartbreaking stupidity of words.”

On a loser's "way" with women, spoken by a woman bystander:
“You tell 'em, big boy; treat 'em rough.” ( )
6 vote richardderus | Feb 27, 2014 |
Mosquitoes is Faulkner's 2nd published novel. It comes before he discovered that his "little postage stamp of native soil" would be the most fertile ground for his story-telling style to take root and grow in. It is set primarily on board the yacht of Mrs. Patricia Maurier, a wealthy woman who collects artists. She has invited a sculptor; a painter; a couple poets and a novelist; an art critic; her twin niece and nephew; an odd British businessman with a notion to sell laxatives to Americans who he says are "always constipated"; and a middle-aged Don Juan wannabe for a pleasure cruise on Lake Ponchartrain, north of New Orleans. The niece brings along a young couple she has met casually in the French Quarter. They are a motley crew, for certain; uncomfortably tossed together and subjected to Mrs. Maurier's proposed diet of dancing, bridge and grapefruit, they sort themselves rather differently than she had it planned. Some of the characters try for sophistication, but only manage superficiality. Others, (the seldom-named "Semitic man", for example) speak with some authority and even wisdom on the subject of art and the artist's perception of himself. Sexual tensions and attractions of every variation abound; plenty of whisky is consumed; the boat runs aground; tall tales are told round the dinner table; people disappear into the swamp and return. Someone is always scratching an ankle or an arm; the mosquitoes find them even in the middle of the lake when the wind is offshore. There is abundant satire, even farce; Faulkner sticks himself sideways into the tale with an amusing cameo appearance. It is almost too clear what Faulkner was attempting to do with this captive cast. In fact, the whole thing has a rather self-conscious feel to it. Some of the dialog, especially the "modern" slang, which may have rung true to contemporary readers, is so dated now that it fails to evoke real people talking at all. This has never felt true of Faulkner's hill people, whose dialect can be very broad, but sounds utterly authentic in a way that Patricia's ejaculatory "Gabriel's pants!" or her penchant for calling her brother by any male name but his own, never does. Most importantly, he was testing out some techniques, themes, images and characterizations that he would hone and improve magnificently in his later works. In retrospect you can see the ancestors of Eula Varner; Temple Drake; Gowan Stevens; Caddie, Quentin and Benjy Compson; and others floating along in the mists. Olga Vickery called this, along with his first novel, Soldiers' Pay, Faulkner's "literary apprenticeship". As such, and for some truly funny moments, it is worth reading if you're a Faulknerian. Otherwise, I won't recommend it to you. ( )
2 vote laytonwoman3rd | Feb 13, 2014 |
kind of runs on a bit for faulkner - essay-like speeches about Art etc that i found somewhat irritating
  lidaskoteina | Aug 20, 2008 |
You can tell immediately that this was written early on. He is trying to be fancy, a common young writer's mistake. There are a lot of characters, a lot of dialogue and it gets convoluted. I think I need to read it again, though, to see if I missed anything. ( )
  BeaverMeyer | Jul 29, 2007 |
Showing 5 of 5
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"The sex instinct," repeated Mr. Talliaferro in his careful cockney, with that smug complacence with which you plead guilty to a characteristic which you privately consider a virtue, "is quite strong in me."
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«Ha visto il tramonto stasera, maggiore Ayers? – chiese a voce alta la Wiseman. – Un delizioso guazzabuglio, no?» «La natura sta regolando i conti con Turner», suggerì il poeta.
«Però, ci si potrebbe ancora scolpire Leda che stringe la sua anatra tra le cosce, – fece notare l'altro. – È grande abbastanza per questo. Oppure…» «Cigno», corresse Fairchild. «No. Anatra, – insisté l'ebreo. – Gli americani preferirebbero un'anatra … »
« … Be' s'immagini un po' lei la situazione: una tradizione di agiatezza inattaccabile che vi si sbriciolava sotto i piedi e dalle rovine si rialzava un uomo che un tempo vi teneva la staffa quando salivate a cavallo… Trent'anni è appena l'adolescenza dell'amarezza, sa. … »
« … La gente è molto più tollerante verso gli artisti di quanto non lo sian gli artisti verso la gente».
La porta si spalancò, lasciando cadere un fascio di luce attraverso il marciapiede, poi si richiuse, riprendendosi il fascio di luce.
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A group of social butterflies and dissolute dilettantes enjoy a boating excursion from New Orleans.

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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0871401673, 0871403110

 

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