Maybe you cannot know when you first approach a novel to reread if it will live up to your recollection or sink like dead weight. Maybe it won’t do either—maybe it will just hover in that No Man’s Land between the title you added to your favorite list in 2010 and the one you plod through, ever so slowly, in 2012. Maybe, it will haunt you.
First time around, this one sailed—stream of consciousness, no problem—convoluted, page-long sentences, bring ‘em on. There’s a problem with multiple narrators? I don’t think so. Second time around though, no stunning surprises to keep the pages turning; the language of racism begins to feel gratuitous, painful (yeah, yeah, I know, it was reflective of the times and attitudes of Civil War-era South, blah, blah, blah). Still. For a Blue State liberal, some words become tiresome, painful. What was contextually acceptable the first time around, is more oppressive the second time.
In any case, I’ve retained that rating from the first read which was entirely pleasurable, while adding this cautionary moan regarding the second read. There’s a balance to be had, I suppose, but this time I was on the down side of the scale.
On a more pleasant note, rereading this and feeling as if I had to write something, I dug out Javier Marías’ Written Lives, a lovely book I will finish sooner or later, and reread the brief essay on Faulkner. I found it interesting that Faulkner was a clothes horse, fashionista in his youth—rendering him, perhaps, his own model for Charles Bon, who in turn becomes a model for Henry Sutpen. Apparently, Faulkner was also not a huge fan of people—hovering, talking, wanting something—I can relate.
If you’re approaching AA for the first time, have fun with it, read it as quickly as you can. If you’re reading this for some other reason—an assignment or some other ‘on purpose’ obligation—look out. All the best, y’all.
As I Lay Dying is one of those titles that all readers of literary fiction get to sooner or later—for good reasons. Not only is it one of Faulkner’s...moreAs I Lay Dying is one of those titles that all readers of literary fiction get to sooner or later—for good reasons. Not only is it one of Faulkner’s most accessible titles, it is also very quickly read and less dark than some of his other work; some of the novel’s developments are, however, told with black comedy/gallows humor.
As there are plenty of title summaries available here, I’m not going to bore readers with another one. I would, however, like to speak to some of the negative criticism this title receives—if that dissuades some readers, so be it; better to not attempt a title than to be disappointed by one—and, yes, I do realize the possibility of running off a potential reader who might otherwise like a title; all I can do is hope that I don’t do that. If nothing else, I might prevent a couple one-star ratings and reviews of the ‘boring’ or ‘confusing’ or ‘hated it’ varieties. Those reviews always strike me as shoving a big extended middle finger into the faces of readers who do like a particular work.
Multiple narrators can be confusing—learning numerous characters at the same time, especially at the beginning of novel often is. In this case, it seems to me, helpful to remember that Faulkner isn’t introducing a family—he’s introducing members of a family—and what better way to do that than letting each tell his or her own version of the story. By that I mean, these are individual stories (narratives) about individuals; they describe how each family member sees him- or herself, how each sees their relatives, and how others, outside the family, see each and all of them. Collectively the narratives present the family and the novel. An aside, in As I Lay Dying, eyes matter—each character sees and is seen; all those descriptions of eyes are there for a reason.
Stream of consciousness is another aspect of Faulkner novels that some readers often find hard to understand. Creating a certain kind of confusion is often part of how the device works. Imagine, if you will, looking inside the head of another person—imagine being able to see his or her thoughts. Would you really expect those thoughts to be linear, punctuated, all neatly organized and processed? Wouldn’t those thoughts more likely assume something of the shape or form of those of young Vardaman whose thoughts run one into another, unpunctuated, unorganized? Remember something else when you encounter this sort of writing—sometimes it’s a way to slow the reader down, force a little more attention in a particular direction.
Faulkner is (in)famous for challenging use of punctuation, syntax, and grammar—his style. He’s not afraid to use dialect, contrived words, or send you to the dictionary. This is not sloppy writing, or careless writing; he does what he does for a reason. The questions that should arise when reading Faulkner (or anyone else, e.g. Cormac McCarthy—considered my some to be the heir of Faulkner’s style), is what is the author doing here and why? What does this sort of writing lend to the understanding of the story? Should I have paid more attention in rhetoric class? Why the hell did I not have a rhetoric class and how can I learn more about it? In the hands of an accomplished author, like Faulkner, it ALL matters.
Enjoy the book; have fun with it, as I think that was his intention.
The Sound and the Fury is one for the committed reader; someone who really wants to read it. I sympathize with students who are assigned this incredib...moreThe Sound and the Fury is one for the committed reader; someone who really wants to read it. I sympathize with students who are assigned this incredible novel.
It’s demanding; it can be hard to read; it's one of which Barthes might suggest be read for “the pleasure of the text.” Approached in the right way, The Sound and the Fury lends itself to being read at its own pace. If allowed, where the stream-of-consciousness passages occur, the reader would be well-advised to slowdown, let the passages reveal their pace, and once that pace is found, those seemingly disjointed, troublesome passages proceed as clearly and with the same rhythm as the rest of the more straightforward sections. Given a fair chance, this classic can prove to be as enjoyable as any other novel you’ll encounter. (less)