Lucas's Reviews > Absalom, Absalom!

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
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Sep 23, 2007

it was amazing
Recommended for: anyone who has prepared themselves with at least 3 other faulkner books
Read in January, 2007

I was nearly stammering when I finished it. It is a text so thick, so full of beauty that to describe it at all is daunting.

first of all, Faulkner is always doing things like this:
“He was a barracks filled with stubborn back-looking ghosts still recovering, even forty-three years afterward, from the fever which had cured the disease, waking from the fever without even knowing that it had been the fever itself which they had fought against and not the sickness, looking with stubborn recalcitrance backward beyond the fever and into the disease with actual regret, weak from the fever yet free of the disease and not even aware that the freedom was that of impotence.”

He keeps doing THAT. It isn't even a great example, as I don't have the book (borrowed to read) on hand to find a really knock-you-down passage.

Alright, review, gather your facilities!

This narrative is relentless, it is a constantly roiling spiral, one that keeps picking up and dropping off details and elements as it grows wider. There is a submission to the narrative that must occur, similar, but much more difficult, to the submission required to get through the opening 50-60 pages of As I Lay Dying, except that this one takes about 200 pages to settle in fully, and instead of confusion, every moment of the reading is stunning and engaging up until that point, then after crossing into the rhythm and cadence and gaining fuller comprehension you are suddenly frightfully stuck with Quentin in the devastating heart of the South and Sutpen and Quentin and Caddy and the war and so many other pieces of this mosaic, this vast terrible mosaic Faulkner is finally able to fully articulate.

Sutpen is the disease, he holds himself up as a mirror to his contemporaries without conscience, they in turn are disgusted by him, his nudity, his wild niggers, his windowless mansion, yet they are fascinated by him, Sutpen is kept close, nearly from the start in one capacity or another to his southern gentlemen counterparts.

Yet, this is a love story, as Salinger wrote in Franny and Zooey "pure and complicated" And in a sense I think that is the most important part, that these multi-page sentences, the spiraling plot, the description and re-description and re-description again of the very air surrounding the events of the story are the closest I have ever seen to being wholly purely, truly, complicated. It's as if his layering and re-layering and re-re-layering and his endlessly unfolding and stacking metaphors are the ONLY way for Quentin, and for us, the readers, to understand the South, and to understand Quentin's desperate self-loathing and destructiveness, and Caddy, and Henry and Bon and Judith and etc...

Then elements of the story that connect with the lineage of Agamemnon are also fascinating and incredible, and I don't really understand most of them, so I recommend coming in better prepared then I was.

I would only recommend this to someone who has read at least 3 other faulkners - I did As I lay Dying, Sound and the Fury Unvanquished then this one. I think Sound and the Fury is necessary BEFORE Absalom. I will be going on to read the rest now...god help me.
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12/16/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim Lucas, thanks for your considered and articulate commentary on this most amazing book. To me, the story almost drops away as I am overwhelmed by the beautiful musical torrent of the language. Yes, it was supremely musical for me, with themes coming up nearly in the background at one point which surface into full-blown movements later on, with motifs which bob up above the surface over and over again, transformed here by their new context, over and over and over again. A masterful and most enjoyable weave it was for me. It was an exhilarating read! Thank you for reminding me again what a great book this is!


Lucas Jim,
I love the musical terms in describing it. Nice work. It's funny, I have a bachelor's degree in music and never thought to use the terms you so appropriately used. Thank you!



message 3: by Steve (last edited Apr 08, 2009 01:42AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Steve What a great review! You really nailed it with this:

And in a sense I think that is the most important part, that these multi-page sentences, the spiraling plot, the description and re-description and re-description again of the very air surrounding the events of the story are the closest I have ever seen to being wholly purely, truly, complicated. It's as if his layering and re-layering and re-re-layering and his endlessly unfolding and stacking metaphors are the ONLY way for Quentin, and for us, the readers, to understand the South, and to understand Quentin's desperate self-loathing and destructiveness, and Caddy, and Henry and Bon and Judith and etc...

I read this for the second time á couple of years ago, and now feel it to be his greatest novel (as well as being the greatest novel from an amazing time in Literature). When I was younger, I think Light in August held that distinction, but the second reading left me "stammering" as well. Very few books leave me like that. This is a book I hope to read several more times. Thanks for the effort you put into this write up.


Lucas Thanks steve! I am about half way through the faulkner catalogue...but I haven't read any since "Sanctuary" several months ago. Someday I will finish!


s.penkevich Great review. My personal favorite novel.


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