Book Notes: August Wilson’s Fences

Turns out this post failed to publish for some reason. Sorry for the confusion!

Fences is supposed to be Wilson’s most famous play. Or at least the most taught one. But I didn’t like it.

Compared to The Piano Lesson and Ma Rainey, Fences is a lot less about black experience in America and a lot more universal, for lack of a better word. The subject of male menopause has been done to absolute death. A man in his fifties cheats on his wife with a young girl. He is intimidated by an adolescent son and fights him for the role of the man of the house. We have only heard this story five million times.

The writing is clunky. There are long boring monologues. The ending is pompous and fake. It was all bad, especially in comparison to the brilliant stuff by this writer that I reviewed on this blog earlier. To me, Wilson is at his best when he writes about black history and not when he does a version of the supremely inane American Beauty. (I know Fences precedes American Beauty but it’s still an outdated, boring plot).

I’m going to watch the movie with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Maybe that’s going to be better. Anything will be better than the play itself.

This is the second book I read this year, and both suck. I’m superstitious about my reading, and this doesn’t bode well.

7 thoughts on “Book Notes: August Wilson’s Fences

  1. Have you read Langston Hughes’s “The Ways of White Folks”? Have recently finished and loved it.

    Btw, have you finished “Kristin Lavransdatter”? I remember you becoming excited about Sigrid Undset, but you haven’t posted any updates.


      1. // I couldn’t get past the first 30 pages of Undset. Such boring, saccharine writing. Not my thing at all.

        The first part was usual, but I liked the 2nd part describing her married life.

        May be, you would enjoy Nemirovsky’s style?

        “Sitting comfortably, without her corset, her arms and legs bare and relaxed, out in the fresh air, in the sunshine, she felt extremely peaceful; she felt happy, as if she had everything she could wish for. She had a husband she loved, the best son in the world. The paper factory was flourishing. Her mother-in-law was dead. Pierre was making an excellent marriage.”

        “She had reached the age where you recoil at the idea of any kind of change, as if it were an omen of the greatest change of all: death.”

        “Important events — whether serious, happy or unfortunate — do not change a man’s soul, they merely bring it into relief, just as a strong gust of wind reveals the true shape of a tree when it blows off all its leaves. Such events highlight what is hidden in the shadows, they nudge the spirit towards a place where it can flourish.”

        “Paris had its sweetest smell, the smell of chestnut trees in bloom and of petrol with a few grains of dust that crack under your teeth like pepper. In the darknes the danger seemed to grow. You could smell the suffering in the air, in the silence. Everyone looked at their house and thought, “Tomorrow it will be in ruins, tomorrow I’l have nothing left.”
        ― Irene Nemirovsky, Suite Française


  2. Among books I loved are:

    Наум Ним – Господи, сделай так… (about lives of 4 friends in FSU and 90ies Russia)


    “Suite Francaise” ~ Irene Nemirovsky

    May be, you would also enjoy them.


  3. Fences is Wilson’s version of Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. I taught them back to back once in a modern drama class, and the similarities are incredible.


    1. ” Wilson’s version of Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller”

      What I want is a Black rewrite of ‘Long day’s journey into night’…. and maybe ‘Streetcar named desire’ and just maybe… ‘Night of the Iguana’….

      Liked by 1 person

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