And so it goes, and so it goes. And the book says, "We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us."When I watched Magnolia, I thought the narrator was referring to a book by William Faulkner, and that perhaps the narrator or writer had the quote incorrect.
I watched Magnolia in 2001 or thereabouts after it came out on video, shortly after making reading Faulkner a priority. I had read the usual "Barn Burning" and "A Rose for Emily" in high school or college. In graduate school, one professor assigned Sanctuary (1931), and an assigned text in a literary criticism class demanded familiarity with Absalom, Absalom! (1936). Moreover, Calvin Martin's The American Indian and the Problem of History (1987) drove me into "The Bear," and from there into Go Down, Moses (1942). For the most part, however, I remained egregiously ignorant of Faulkner. I passed up a seminar called Southern Literature because I was appalled that two-thirds of the texts were by one author.
In 2000 I selected Go Down, Moses as one of the texts I would teach in my introductory literature class (yep, I'm nuts), and decided it was time to begin washing away my ignorance of twentieth-century America's greatest writer.
Despite my ignorance, I have been familiar for many years with the sentiment that the past has its own ideas about when we can leave it behind, and that this idea could be attributed as a line from Faulkner. Requiem for Nun (1951) remains on my "to read" list, rather than among the dozen or so texts that I've perused. Even so, for many years I have quoted, and misquoted, and have heard others quote and misquote the line: "The past is never dead. It's not even past."
Google knows everything
A few days ago, on my Facebook page, I placed the line from Magnolia next to Faulkner's, which had been in the "about me" box for awhile. Last night, I posted the movie line as "my status". This morning I discovered how my status update failed as communication when a friend mistook it as a statement of my psychological journey, rather than what I intended: a fishing expedition to locate Paul Thomas Anderson's source. Anderson wrote and directed Magnolia.
Searching for the quote, "We may be through with the past," via Google produces pages and pages of references to Magnolia. Often I stop there. If the fish won't rise to the surface, I can do something else. Indeed I stopped fishing several times, before returning anew. After wading through perhaps five pages, I found The Internet Movie Database's Magnolia trivia. The note references The Natural History of Nonsense (1946) by Bergan Evans as the source of the line. Evans' book also is the source for the idea that it could rain frogs.
My belief that it was an instance of Faulkner misquoted proved incorrect. The Natural History of Nonsense precedes Requiem for a Nun. Perhaps Evans' book is Faulkner's source for Gavin Stevens' memorable line?
The first chapter, "Adam's Navel," begins:
We may be through with the past, but the past is not through with us. Ideas of the Stone Age exist side by side with the latest scientific thought. Only a fraction of mankind has emerged from the Dark Ages, and in the most lucid brains, as Logan Pearsall Smith has said, we come upon "nests of woolly caterpillars." Seemingly sane men entrust their wealth to stargazers and their health to witch doctors.Before this chapter begins, the text offers several quotable epigrams in the front-matter. The Preface, for instance:
Evans, The Natural History of Nonsense, 5
This book is a contribution to the natural history of nonsense. It is a study in the paleontology of delusion. It is an antibody for all who are allergic to Stardust. It is a manual of chiropody for feet of clay.
Evans, The Natural History of Nonsense, vii