MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
July 6th marks the 50th anniversary of William Faulkner's death. Among the millions of people who revere Faulkner is another Southern author, Ralph Eubanks. When he was a teenager, Eubanks wanted what lots of kids want, namely anything that his parents said was off limits, and that's why he picked up Faulkner's "The Reivers."
Ralph Eubanks may have lost the urge to defy his parents, but he hasn't lost his love of Faulkner, and he recommends "The Reivers" for our series PG-13, in which writers talk about a book that ushered them into adulthood.
RALPH EUBANKS: The work of William Faulkner is too high a mountain for many readers, with those long, complex sentences and shifting points of view. But when I was 12, his famously tangled techniques meant nothing to me, so I picked up a copy of "The Reivers." All I knew was that there was a boy about my age and a stolen horse and car - pretty cool. So I walked past the children's shelf on the book mobile and went straight to the adult section at the back. What I didn't know then but that I do know now is that "The Reivers" is a painless introduction to the work of William Faulkner.
It's his most straightforward narrative, and it echoes Mark Twain but with Faulkner's distinctive cadence. The story is about a boy named Lucius Priest, who heads off from the Mississippi town of Jefferson. Soon, he's on an adventure in Memphis with a child of a man named Boon Hogganbeck. There's also Ned McCaslin, a wise-cracking black man thrown in for good measure. Issues of race and sex run through the book, part of the story takes place inside a bordello, a concept I didn't understand when I started it but definitely got by the time I finished it.
The summer I read "The Reivers," I was as naive as Lucius. Now, I understand all the nuances of the story, and I can laugh not just at Faulkner's wry sense of humor but at myself. Lucius lost his innocence in "The Reivers." In the pages of that book, I lost a bit of my innocence as well.
SIEGEL: Mississippi native Ralph Eubanks, his latest book is called "The House at the End of the Road," a story of race, identity and memory. He's also the director of publishing at the Library of Congress, and the book he recommended was "The Reivers" by William Faulkner. At our website, you can find more PG-13 recommendations, as well as lists of summer reads from our critics and correspondents. That's at nprbooks.org.