Pulitzer Book Club Inclusion Guide
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"A Fable" by William Faulkner
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Rejected by U.S. Forces because of height (under 5’6”), Faulkner enlisted in Royal Air Force by fictionalizing birthplace and surname — from Falkner to Faulkner — to become a British character in real life WWII. Although his war experience was on English and Canadian training bases, Faulkner got creative about his military exploits while chatting with Mississippi friends.
Featured Reader Wanted!
– Share your key take-away about inclusion in this book in a sentence or two.
– Write a paragraph or two (up to 250 words) to describe your thoughts on exclusion/inclusion in the book, why you related or did not connect with the book, and why you think reading, inclusion and dialog about inclusion matter.
– Identify the name and website address of a cause you support with an inclusive mission.
Corporal and dozen followers mutiny and stop French WWI battle
Corporal found with a crown of barbed wire.
Critics argue about what “A Fable” is about and whether it’s genius or literary fail. Some see “A Fable” as Christ/Holy Week in military context; others consider it a pitch for pacifism. Novel has been interpreted as exploration of the human condition and compared to “Aesop’s Fable” and mythology. Is the writing brilliant, bland, confusing, trashy rhetoric, or inspiring? You decide.
Earn a literary battlefield medal if you make it through either 512 pages or 20 listening hours.
Resist. People who don't follow bad orders create progress.
Three countries are WWI allies versus a common enemy. Military separated by rank and purpose. Fallen-from-grace leader set up for failure. Believers in peace, religion, and mutiny versus military command and order. Ability of man of lowly rank to change the outcome of a battle and a war.
Draw straws. Short straw is desperately poor, hungry woman who eats dirty heel of bread with dignity. Next shortest straw is general who does not drink from bottles of wine, rum and cassis and rejects cutlery in favor of fingers and mopping up food with loaf of bread. The longest straw is corporal who identifies menu which his followers endorse.
“So it’s not we who conquer each other, because we are not even fighting each other. It’s simple nameless war which decimates our ranks. ... It is man who is our enemy: the vast seething spiritless moiling spiritless mass of him.”
Find a space that can easily transition from Last Supper setup to military tribunal courtroom vibe.
How is a rising star in “A Fable” (and in the real world) treated on the way up and on the way down?
How do people in the novel/in life respond to someone who breaks the system?
Discuss the politics of likely failure in the novel/life. Why proceed with a doomed attack?
Where have you encountered leadership like the type used in the opening of the novel (use of hate and fear to ignite action)? How is it possible to combat that strategy?
Faulkner posits there’s always somebody who will provide drinks and weapons to those who can’t afford them. Do you believe that? How can that be addressed in the real world?
Why did Faulkner include the racehorse subplot and Reverend Tobe Sutterfield, the Black American the saintly leader of “The Myriad and Anonymous Friends of Everyone in France” and former stable hand?
Why does Faulkner call hoping “masturbation.” Where should humanity place their hope and faith?
How do religious beliefs direct human interactions in “A Fable”? Why are martyrs and public burials influential?
Discuss how pacifism and military authority unites and divides in the novel. Compare the Marshal and the Corporal do in the novel.
Who/what is the enemy in the novel? Who/what has been the enemy in U.S. wars?
There’s a comparison between a condemned man and a solider carrying a pack in terms of readiness to confront death. How do military leaders treat soldiers about to head into battle in the novel? How does that compare to how U.S. military prepares troops today? How are condemned Americans treated?
Why do people relate to an unknown soldier’s tomb?
If you’re not into a European battlefield trip, visit Faulkner’s home and grounds, Rowan Oak, in Oxford, Mississippi. The plot outline for “A Fable” covers the walls of the study Faulkner shellacked so his wife could not paint over the plot chronology a second time.
“The Reivers” (1969), “The Tarnished Angels” (1957 adaptation of “Pylon”), “The Long, Hot Summer” (1957 adapted from Faulkner stories).
“The Reivers” (1961 - Faulkner’s other Pulitzer winner which is a comedy); “Soldiers’ Pay” (1926 Faulkner’s first novel). Read “As I Lay Dying” (1930) if you need a high school English class PTSD experience.