Vivian Valvano's Reviews > Absalom, Absalom!

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
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Jul 07, 12

Read in July, 2012

Prompted by an essay in last week's NY TIMES MAGAZINE, "The 'Ulysses' of Mississippi" by John Jeremiah Sullivan, I pulled out my copy of ABSALOM, ABSALOM and re-read it and experienced sheer readerly joy. Sullivan argues in support of Faulkner's novel being heralded as the greatest Southern novel ever written; he says, "It may represent the closest American literature came to producing an analog for 'Ulysses,' which influenced it deeply - each in its way is a provincial Modernist novel about a young man trying to awaken from history - and like 'Ulysses,' it lives as a book more praised than read, or more esteemed than enjoyed." He is, of course, talking about the general public. He argues the case for ABSALOM, ABSALOM expertly and convincingly. And I thank him for the nudge to spend a few sultry summer afternoons re-reading Faulkner's masterpiece. It was when published, is now, and ever will be brilliant. Breaking conventional rule after conventional rule of old-fashioned storytelling, Faulkner gives us a very particularized look at very particular characters in the American South - and manages to essentially give us the American South. Peerless words that I love, in Quentin's mind: "Maybe nothing ever happens once and is finished. maybe happen is never once but like ripples maybe on water after the pebble sinks, the ripples moving on, spreading, the pool attached by a narrow umbilical water-cord to the next pool which the first pool feeds, has fed, did feed, let this second pool contain a different temperature of water, a different molecularity of having seen, felt, remembered, reflect in a different tone the infinite unchanging sky, it doesn't matter: that pebble's watery echo whose fall it did not even see moves across its surface too at the original ripple-space, to the old ineradicable rhythm thinking Yes, we are both Father" (261-2). And a perfect ending with Shreve and Quentin:
"'Now I want you to tell me just one thing more. Why do you hate the South?'
'I don't hate it,' Quentin said quickly, at once, immediately; 'I don't hate it,' he said. I don't hate it he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark; I don't. I don't! I don't hate it! I don't hate it!" (378).
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