Thursday, February 15, 2007

Using Faulkner To Interpret Wisconsin News

I was a graduate student years ago in the UW-Madison's English department, specializing in William Faulkner and wondering if reading all those books would be of value when I grew up.

Yet Faulkner, and his novella The Bear continue to come to mind.

The Bear, along with much of Faulkner's work, are commentaries - - and I know that this is an oversimplification - - on the misguided belief that people can wisely manage the land.

I actually re-read The Bear last year when I was writing extensively on suburban sprawl and found Faulkner remarkably relevant: his characters were either despoiling the land or eachother through misdirected possessivenss or reacting to the land's degradation - - thus continuously damaging themselves spiritually.

So when I research the paving of Waukesha County's water supply recharge area at Pabst Farms, or plans to extend an airport runway through a marsh in West Bend or to build a mini-city in the Kettle Moraine in Delafield right to the edge of Lapham Peak State Park, The Bear provides additional perspective.

I have also been particularly struck by the ugly murder in the Peshtigo woods last month of Cha Vang, a Hmong immigrant, over what court records now indicate was a squirrel allegedly treed by another hunter.

A squirrel!

At the end of The Bear, in a symbolism-laden closing, a hunter named Boon Hogganbeck fears that others in his hunting party - - the group is in a forest being stripped of its timber, wildlife and character - - are going to poach some squirrels he has cornered at a solitary tree.

"Get out of here!," Boon shouts to the others. "Don't touch them! Don't touch a one of them! They're mine."

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