Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Faulkner and Obama



I missed Obama's speech yesterday, but I was reading it this morning and was surprised that he quoted Faulkner. From the transcript:

"Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, 'The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.' We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow."

It's an incredible soundbite (of course, isn't everything he says compulsively quotable?), but here's my problem: he misquoted Faulkner. It comes from Requiem for a Nun, a play Faulkner wrote very late in his career as a sequel to Sanctuary; it's a seldom-read book, but the quotation is the most frequently repeated line from all of Faulkner's works. It comes from the following exchange between Gavin Stevens and Temple Drake:


STEVENS

Yet you invented the coincidence.


TEMPLE

Mrs Gowan Stevens did.


STEVENS

Temple Drake did. Mrs Gowan Stevens is not even fighting in this class. This is Temple Drake’s.


TEMPLE

Temple Drake is dead.


STEVENS

The past is never dead. It’s not even past.


I get that Obama is paraphrasing in his speech, and that doesn't belittle the meaning of what he was trying to say, but it still bugs me. It kind of reminds me of this girl I went to high school with who graduated the year before me. She was co-valedictorian basically because she managed to take the easiest classes for four years and get straight As, but was honestly as dumb as a brick. (This was before AP classes were offered, so those weighted grades didn't place the people who actually put forth more effort higher in the class rankings than those who took Home Ec.) In her graduation speech, she quoted Charles Dickens as writing, "It was the worst of times, it was the best of times." Sure, that fit in perfectly with the way she spoke about high school ("You guys, ninth grade English was so scary with Ms. Wagstaff, but we learned a lot, didn't we?!?!"), but that's NOT what Charles Dickens wrote.



Related:
Transcript of Obama Speech [Politico]
Requiem for a Nun [WFotW]

15 comments:

BG5000 said...

The man gives probably the most important speech on race and racism in America since "I Have A Dream" and you want to take issue with a paraphrased Faulkner quote. Only you, Ty Ty. Good thing you don't like Star Wars or i'm sure you'd spend most of the day trolling message boards pointing out the correct use of Yoda's syntax.

Yeti said...

bg5000, I know Yoda, and Obama, my friend, is no Yoda.

and you only call it the most important speech on racism because you read that in the Redeye

Tyler said...

Adam,

What was that? Can you take that big black cock out of your mouth and speak a little more clearly?

BG5000 said...

Not till i finish, i can't.

BG5000 said...

And i only read the RedEye for Dustin J. Seibert's amazing "Hump Day" column, Yeti. I say the speech on Captivate Television.

MSM said...

"Good thing you don't like Star Wars or i'm sure you'd spend most of the day trolling message boards pointing out the correct use of Yoda's syntax"

OMGLOLZ! That is hilarious...and I know a thing or two about hilarity...SHElarity...

Tyler said...

Mary Stuart Masterson IS she-larious.

BG5000 said...

Come on now, Tyler's stereotype perpetuating cocksucking joke was Shelarious, too. Let's give credit where credit's due.

Tyler said...

I wasn't talking about Obama's cock, Adam. I was referring to your preference for large, black cocks, that's all! We all have our preferences!

yeti said...

they make specialized porn for people like you, adam

BG5000 said...

I hear they're good at basketball, too, Tyler. You can work that in next time.

Tyler said...

Q: "Do you think Bill Clinton was the first black president?"

Obama: "I would have to investigate more in Bill's dancing abilities...before I accurately judged whether he was in fact a brother."

Yeti said...

hey Adam.. O.J. did kill his wife

BG5000 said...

So does that mean you think you should be able to drop the n-word, too, Ty Ty? Cause i'm not sure if that's the best line of reasoning.

Anonymous said...

I noticed the same thing. "Most important speech on race" or not, it bugs me, too, on a visceral level.