follow tali on ...

the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
NOV
18

Faulkner and Funerals

I was genuinely moved at a funeral this week when the deceased’s widow brought up William Faulkner. I would have been moved anyway, her husband having died much too young and in the sudden sort of way that left no time for goodbyes, but the literary reference caught me off guard.

This woman is strong and together and in many moments of her remarks seemed so composed and matter of fact that you’d have had no idea she’d just lost her husband. But when she, in the most raw sort of way that only the grieving can, finally broke down over how hard it is, how sad she was to put his body in the ground and never get to look at it or touch it again, I wept. I wept for her and her children, for all of us. I wept because even the promise of heaven does not soften the blow of being separated from a loved one for the next several decades. How do you learn to do life without the person you do life with? Where is the comfort in that if the comfort doesn’t come until you yourself have left the earth? It’s a question I’ve never been able to answer.

It’s like that story, the widow said. A Rose For Emily. She reminded us of the basic plot, which is that Emily keeps the deceased body of the man she loves, in her bed, and even gets in the bed with the body, a fact that’s discovered upon her death. It’s such a classic, frequently-read story. As early as high school I was scrunching my nose in disgust over the whole icky idea. It disturbed me, frankly. It had disturbed the widow, too, except here she was now admitting she finally understood why someone would do it. And the thought of closing the casket and leaving him in the earth was so much worse than taking him home with her, as she wished she could.

Honestly, it’s the first time I’ve felt any amount of affection for the story. The first time it struck me as something tragic and almost beautiful. It’s the first time I’ve left a funeral craving Faulkner.

MAR
14

Throwback: Yellow Wallpaper

b2ap3_thumbnail_wallpaper.jpg

It's a funny thing, Twitter. I'm one of the worst users ever, as I don't have a smart phone, am hardly ever logged in, tweet rarely, and feel sort of silly in this "you have no followers" stage which I really see no end to. But, I digress. Because the reason I brought up Twitter was to mention how amazing it is to be connected (even if only on a one side basis) to pretty much anyone you wish to be. Publishers, agents, celebrities, authors. Why just yesterday I came across a tweet by Joyce Carol Oates (Joyce Carol Oates, people!) and immediately added her to the list of people I follow. To sum up, I now follow Joyce Carol Oates. She says something, I see it. Talk about an impressive vehicle of connection.

But the reason I was struck by this particular tweet of Joyce's was her mentioning the short story "Yellow Wallpaper." Former English students of the world, do you remember this story? I sure do. In fact, there might be nothing that could have more instantly brought me back to my days as a university student. Short stories were my first love. Spending semester after semester reading Kate Chopin, Flannery O'Connor, William Faulkner (remember "A Rose for Emily"?), and of course Charlotte Perkins Gilman made me want to do nothing with my life except write equally intriguing fiction.

Poetry blew me in another direction, and now I've jumped ship completely in the name of non-fiction, but I guess what I want to know is what happened to the short story? Is it still around, stronger than ever, and I simply haven't been paying attention? Are there still stunners like "The Lottery" being written? The last contemporary story I read and truly loved was published in an issue of The Georgia Review over ten years ago, so it's probably time I got back into it. I have JCO to thank for reminding me. Or maybe it's Twitter to whom I owe this gratitude. Either way, I'll mention it when I get around to logging back in. Maybe this weekend.