Richard's Reviews > Absalom, Absalom!

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
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Have you ever looked at one of Picasso's abstract females? You know the ones I mean. The woman has a head in which the prominently jutting nose splits the face into two sections with violently contrasting colours. Other body parts, hugely disproportionate, seem to bulge and dangle everywhere. You contemplate it for a while, shake your perfectly symmetrical head, put your elegantly tapered fingers pensively to your shapely chin, and think, "There's a human being in there somewhere. I can see all the body parts. But why does it look so incredibly bizarre?"

Well, that's sort of how I felt reading this novel. If I had to sum it up in one phrase it would be: Convoluted, convoluted!

Mind you, I wouldn't want to dissuade anyone from trying this. I'm told by those in the nose know that it's much better on a second reading. If I went back to the Picasso, maybe all those skewed arms and legs and, well, you know, other things would shift around and suddenly look like a regular human being. And if I go back to the Faulkner, maybe all those characters, fragments, flashbacks, rehashings, and long drawn out italicized monologues will shift around and suddenly make sense like a regular novel.

I don't know, though, whether I'll ever go back. But that's just me.
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Reading Progress

04/29/2012 page 22
6.0% 4 comments
05/10/2012 page 238
63.0% 6 comments
05/14/2012 page 272
72.0% 2 comments
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 53) (53 new)


Gary I love Faulkner....not an easy read, but definately worth it....I know a connection with him in the state of Missouri if you're interested in hearing about it.....


Richard This is definitely a strange book so far, but I have also read The Sound and the Fury, and a few other things here and there. I'm also reading it because it's a current group read for the Southern literature group:

http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/6...

Yes, I would be interested in hearing about the Missouri connection.


Gary http://www.semo.edu/cfs/

Check out the website.....I know Dr. Robert Hamblin.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Well Richard how are we getting on reading this one?


Richard Well, so far I'm not liking it as much as I want to. The sentences are long and rambling, and the story is strange and oppressive. However, I have the feeling that much will happen before the end. So, I keep on plodding...


Richard Gary wrote: "http://www.semo.edu/cfs/

Check out the website.....I know Dr. Robert Hamblin."


Gary, that website looks great. Thanks for pointing it out!


Gary Richard wrote: "Gary wrote: "http://www.semo.edu/cfs/

Check out the website.....I know Dr. Robert Hamblin."

Gary, that website looks great. Thanks for pointing it out!"


You can visit the campus,and go to their library to see the Faulkner collection. I took my bookclub,and we spent 3 hours in the room with Dr. Hamblin showing us stuff,and talking to us. It was way cool! If you contact him you could visit with him too.


Gary I held in my hands the actual screenplay that Faulkner himself typed for the movie TO HAVE OR TO HAVE NOT, based on Ernest Hemingway's novel. I was quaking with the excitement of it.


message 9: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason Oh, no! Poor Faulker, how sad. I was actually looking forward to reading this one. =(


Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Eh, Richard, you'll need to write up a note explicating that one star. Otherwise you might get a few Faulknerians all ruffled under the collar. Eh, one star?


message 11: by Richard (last edited May 17, 2012 11:37AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Richard Jason wrote: "Oh, no! Poor Faulker, how sad. I was actually looking forward to reading this one. =("

It's like looking at a Picasso. You know, the woman with the nose over here and the, ahem, endowments over there. You look and you think, "There's a human being in there somewhere. I can see all the body parts. But why does it look so bizarre?" Well, that's sort of how I felt reading this.

Don't pay too much attention to what I think, Jason. I'm told by those in the nose know that this is much better on a second reading. If I go back, maybe all those skewed arms and legs and, well, you know, will shift around and suddenly look like a regular human being. I just don't know, though whether I'll ever go back. But that's just me.


message 12: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason That is an interesting assessment! Great visual. :)


Richard Jason wrote: "That is an interesting assessment! Great visual. :)"

Thanks. It just sorta came to me. I wasn't going to write a review but I think I just did! :)


Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Richard wrote: "It's like looking at a Picasso. "

Ah, right. That does do a good job of explication. This means that for folks like me for whom there is more woman in a Picasso than in a photograph means that there is still that in Faulkner which we have always thought was in Faulkner. Heh, is Faulkner not for everyone? Non, non, mon cher!

Having read the David and Saul and Absalom story last winter I thought I might put Faulkner on that long to-read list to see what he did with the biblical material.


message 15: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls I always thought this was the least appealling title of any Picasso-standard US classic. Sorrentino gleefully rips the piss out of this one in Mulligan Stew.


message 16: by Richard (last edited May 17, 2012 06:44PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Richard @ Nathan: There is a link to the Biblical material, but for me it wasn't glaringly obvious until I'd gotten quite far into the book.

@ MJ: I will put Mulligan Stew on the wishlist. Thanks for the recommendation.


message 17: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason Your brilliant Picasso analogy needs to be a part of this review so I can properly vote for it. :)


Richard Jason wrote: "Your brilliant Picasso analogy needs to be a part of this review so I can properly vote for it. :)"

I had thought of incorporating that in some way, but it's right there in the comments. However, if you think it's a good idea...


Richard And I've done it Jason! Thanks for the nudge.


Jeffrey Keeten It may have been a chore but YOU MADE IT. I think Mike Sullivan is giving out t-shirts.


Richard Jeffrey wrote: "It may have been a chore but YOU MADE IT. I think Mike Sullivan is giving out t-shirts."

"I survived Absalom, Absalom!" Ooh, I want me one of those. I think I've earned it!


message 22: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary and your final verdict about the book????


message 23: by Richard (last edited May 26, 2012 08:06AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Richard Gary wrote: "and your final verdict about the book????"

I think I had less trouble with The Sound and the Fury, and maybe if I read other works by him, that will illuminate things further. This one was worth reading, but as I said in the last line, I'm not sure if I will re-read it--at least it won't be for a while.


message 24: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary You need to read AS I LAY DYING....


message 25: by Richard (last edited Oct 02, 2012 09:57AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Richard Gary wrote: "You need to read AS I LAY DYING...."

Thanks. I've added it to my wishlist (= books I don't own). Luckily, my local library has it.


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

O.K. Richard you know me well enough by now, I rarely stray from the path of whatever obsession I'm curently choking into submission. However after reading your review, I feel I have to read this book! Bravo my darling x


Richard Thomas wrote: "O.K. Richard you know me well enough by now, I rarely stray from the path of whatever obsession I'm curently choking into submission. However after reading your review, I feel I have to read this b..."

Wow, that wasn't quite the effect I was going for. But good luck!


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

Indeed!


message 29: by Adam (new)

Adam Your comparison of Faulkner with Picasso is very perceptive.


Richard Adam wrote: "Your comparison of Faulkner with Picasso is very perceptive."

Thank you Adam! I'm so pleased you liked the review.


message 31: by Will (new) - added it

Will Perhaps a rereading of Aeschylus's Oresteia would help, since it's a modernist retelling of it, more than biblical.


Richard Will wrote: "Perhaps a rereading of Aeschylus's Oresteia would help, since it's a modernist retelling of it, more than biblical."

Thanks. I hadn't thought of that!


s.penkevich Hey, you tried and finishes and that is more than most can say! This is actually one of my favorites, depending on the day I cite either this or Crime and Punishment, but only because around half-way I realized I was only just then grasping the story. I went back to page one and it all flowed for me then.


Richard s.penkevich wrote: "Hey, you tried and finished and that is more than most can say! This is actually one of my favorites, depending on the day I cite either this or Crime and Punishment, but only because around half-w..."

Thanks for understanding, s.p.! I can sense it's one of the great 20th century novels, but I just got too frustrated. I think a few things were going on with my review. I resented the difficulty I'd had reading it. I wanted to go against the flow by giving a low rating and then sit back and see what the reaction would be. I came up with the Picasso comparison and Jason encouraged me to include it in the review.


message 35: by Ali (last edited Aug 26, 2012 06:01AM) (new) - added it

Ali I've said so before, but even though I think I'm going to like the book, I believe this is one of the fairer assessments of it I've read, which means when I finish A,A!, I'll probably give it a vote, even if I don't agree with it. Often when I really like a book, one of the first things I'll do is read negative reviews of it, because sometimes, if they're done well, they can make me look at it more critically and see its flaws, which leads to a more well-rounded impression of the book, rather than simple blind worship. So I really don't care if people hate books I happen to like, I only get annoyed with them if they start attacking those of us who liked the book personally, or use faulty reasoning to prove that it is objectively bad, or somehow hint that if you like it, you're just trying to look smart by claiming to understand something they thought was incomprehensible, or because of social pressure by all your friends who also liked it, or whatever. This review doesn't do any of that. You logically lay out what didn't work for you in the book, thereby letting any prospective reader know the kind of things they might encounter when going into it, and you don't indulge in any of the purile tactics above and smug unfunny snark (not to say all snark is unfunny, but there's a certain way in which it's used on Goodreads [it's quite hard to explain if you haven't seen it before] by people trying to be funny by using gargantuan passages of purple prose to tear down every facet of a book and listing ways they'd rather be tortured and all the painful or disgusting things they would rather have done to themselves than read this book or its author's work again, and after a while, after countless vote-whoring imitators who are even less funny than their progenitors [because yes, this style is incredibly and tragically easy to immitate, and it is, by a lot of people], all of it runs together and sounds the same to me, and it becomes unbelievably boring and not even a little amusing, unless done by the deftest of writers) that mars so many negative reviews around here.

I think I'm becoming so grumpy that I'm inadvertently turning into a parody of myself.


Richard Ali wrote: "I've said so before, but even though I think I'm going to like the book, I think this is one of the fairer assessments of it I've read, which means when I finish A,A!, I'll probably give it a vote,..."

Thank you kindly for the compliment, Ali! I shall look forward to seeing your reaction to the novel--whether or not we agree about it.


s.penkevich Ali wrote: "I've said so before, but even though I think I'm going to like the book, I believe this is one of the fairer assessments of it I've read, which means when I finish A,A!, I'll probably give it a vot..."

I totally agree (even though I give a lot of 5 stars) that it is the mid-range or negative reviews that I use to decide if I'm going to read a book or not. Most negatives just say they don't like it, but Richard does a great job of saying what it was that didn't work for him, and that is almost more helpful to someone, especially someone new to Faulkner, than what IS good about it.


message 38: by Scribble (last edited Dec 02, 2012 10:06PM) (new)

Scribble Orca You know, if we have to go surreal, I'd rather have Dali*. Here's a conundrum: if Faulkner is Picasso, who would be Dali?

*Yes, yes, I know about the misogyny arguments....let's leave those aside, for the moment, shall we?


Richard Scribble wrote: "You know, if we have to go surreal, I'd rather have Dali. Here's a conundrum: if Faulkner is Picasso, who would be Dali?"

John Barth perhaps?


message 40: by Scribble (new)

Scribble Orca Richard wrote: "John Barth perhaps?"

Do you have a specific "painting" in mind or a critique of your own?


Richard Scribble wrote: "Richard wrote: "John Barth perhaps?"

Do you have a specific "painting" in mind or a critique of your own?"


No, I've seen a few Dali paintings, and have read a little bit of Barth, but I'm just putting the connection out there as a suggestion or theory.


Wordsmith Great review, and I do believe it is an honest assessment of the book, which certainly belongs in that club of books that are necessary for a re-read in order to claim any joy from having read it. Two, three or more times.
Although my shelves runneth over I'm now inspired to create a new one.
better-with-every-re-read


message 43: by Scribble (last edited Dec 03, 2012 12:38AM) (new)

Scribble Orca Richard wrote: "No, I've seen a few Dali paintings, and have read a little bit of Barth, but I'm just putting the connection out there as a suggestion or theory."

Thank you, Richard, I'm grateful. I'm not familiar with Barth at all, so I guess I'll have to make that foray on my own.

I was recently discussing with a friend the works of Bach and Liszt and we were trying to identify writers whose work we thought evoked similar differences in parallel. It's not as easy as it would seem, which is what makes your Picasso analogy all the more admirable.


Wordsmith http://m.youtube.com/index?&deskt...

This makes me feel better, calmer, than virtually anything on earth.

Who can compare? Maybe no one. Maybe Rilke.

Ahhh,
Liszt


message 45: by Scribble (new)

Scribble Orca Wordsmith, thank you!!!! Both for the link and the suggestion.

(and also because Liszt has a special significance.)


Wordsmith You're welcome. It's one of those pieces of created artistry that defies words...

Which is kind of how I feel about Rilke : )


Richard Scribble and Wordsmith: Thank you for the stimulating feedback!


message 48: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary Jeffrey wrote: "It may have been a chore but YOU MADE IT. I think Mike Sullivan is giving out t-shirts."

Ok, seriously....how can I get a t shirt???? lol!


Richard Gary wrote: "Jeffrey wrote: "It may have been a chore but YOU MADE IT. I think Mike Sullivan is giving out t-shirts."

Ok, seriously....how can I get a t shirt???? lol!"


I'd put mine right next to my Flannery O'Connor one, (which would naturally read: "A Good T-shirt Is Hard To Find").


message 50: by Gary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gary I have a Flannery t shirt already..... it's cool!


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