Ryan's Reviews > The Sound and the Fury

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
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's review
Jan 06, 2008

it was ok
Recommended to Ryan by: Random House Top 100 Novels list
Recommended for: The autisic and those who want to prove their literary chops.

The first thing that comes to mind in regard to ¨The Sound and the Fury¨ is Eliot´s ¨a heap of broken images.¨ Deciphering TSTF is like reassembling a shattered mirror; difficult, and likely to end in pain.

On the other hand, it´s hard to deny that it´s a great book, if only from the standpoint of workmanship. The skill it took to create this piece, composed of so many seperate perspectives, confined to such a narrow and specific moments of time, makes me think of interlocking puzzles carved from a single piece of wood or stone. Whether you like it or not, you have to admire the workmanship.

That being said, I believe that this book is so highly regarded for exactly the qualities that make it inaccessible to the majority of readers. If you have the patience to finish it, and the tools to decipher it, you become one of the select few, the literati elite. It´s regarded because it excludes. Unfortunately, many lovers of literature want writing to need decoding; they want layers of meaning inaccessible to the uninitiated. I am not one of those readers.

After all, once you do decode the book, once you´ve assembled the shattered mirror, is the image you see there really that unique or fascinating? I admit that I do have a certain sympathy for the characters in TSTF; I believe them. They feel real for me. However, it´s hard not to care about the characters after you´ve worked so hard to understand exactly what the hell is going on with them. You´ve already invested so much time with them that they´re practically family. It vaguely smacks of manipulation for an author to use such a device to get his readers invested with his characters.

Finally, I guess that my issue is not with Faulkner, a master of his craft who managed what is nearly impossible, to do some thing new in the field of writing. My issue is with the literature community, who chose to so highly esteem such a difficult nut to crack.

The Sound and the Fury; a masterpiece of form, and one of the most inaccessible books I´ve ever picked up. Again, it´s hard to argue with the quality of the book; I would recommend the book to very few readers, but I´ve still been moved to write a couple of hundred words about it.
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Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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

Tom Interesting perspective on a very difficult read.

message 2: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Hall This review says many of the same things early critics said. I think the reviewer missed the experience of TSTF.
It doesn't need to be so difficult if you just read it for beauty. If you get frustrated looking for some ostensible meaning, something signified, ask someone to tell you what the basic events are, read Faulkner's introduction, and then get back to slowly sifting through the words.

Heather Crabbe I agree with much of what you say--a master work that is beyond most readers. I appreciate the skill for sure, but hated every minute I spent reading it. I thought it would get easier and more enjoyable after Benjy's section, but his part actually ended up being my favorite part of the entire book. Unlike you, I did NOT find the characters appealing--with the exception of Benjy. I found them selfish and annoying. This is my least favorite book by Faulkner, and I gave it two stars purely for the author's talent.

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

I strongly disagree with what you say about TSATF being so highly regarded strictly because of its inaccessibility and sense of accomplishment one gets from finishing it. Faulkner doesn't ask you to "decode" his book – if he were that superficial then it would clearly show through once the pieces had been put together. He wrote the book like he did because it couldn't have been written any other way. I mean, the Benji section is so intentionally disorienting and difficult to read because Faulkner wanted to approximate the experience of living with a debilitating mental condition and, not only that, give the reader a fractured portrayal of a fractured family through a personally involved yet completely non-judgmental narrator. Understanding what is going on and constructing a cohesive plot is not the point here – it's reveling in his mastery of language and characterisation, his humour, and his heart wrenching empathy.

Spike You nailed it. Thanks for saying it.

Russell I would argue with your conclusion. It is not particularly difficult if you read it again, and yes he is manipulating you. The bad taste the book left in your mouth is testament to how well it worked. You aren't supposed to feel sympathy for any of these wing-nuts. I guess what I'm really saying (and yes I am a literature student) is that the writing's supposed inaccessibility is a result of the decreased emphasis on reading as a source of entertainment. Faulkner was a product of a highly literate society...we do not live in such a society. There's nothing wrong with that per se, but its just not that hard. You want hard, grab a copy of Finnegan's Wake.

Karen You aren't supposed to feel sympathy for Benjy? The "wing nut", as you refer to him. Really?? Part of Faulkners appeal is his ability to completely let the reader in on a mentally challenged man's thoughts in a heartbreaking , eloquent way. No manipulating here.

Joshua Knechtel I think you nailed exactly why I hated literature in school. I am half-way through this book now and I struggle with enjoying it. Benjy's section was actually easier to decipher for me than Quentin's. The problem I am having is that after figuring out what is going on I am not sure I care.

message 9: by Patrick (new)

Patrick The summary line of whom you recommended this book for makes me smile. Thank you!

Mad Tom I agree with the deleted user. I don't think any writer "plans" for their novel to be inaccessible, that's just bad marketing. But they choose the art over readership and that's ballsy and should be commended. That said, this "is" a difficult read, but as a writer I really don't think Faulkner would intentionally require readers to decode, that's just how the story is, or at least appears to be.

Alyson The only narrator I found unlikable was Jason, characters there were more. Your review is great, I just feel that the book is so perfectly written and assembled that I gave it 5 stars. But I do agree with most of your review anyway. Crazy how that can work :)

message 12: by Andario (new) - added it

Andario Very useful review, thanks

Ohioutod I'm no literary snob, and I didn't have any problems "getting" this book. There is a bit of a trick, though, and that is -- you have to let go. You can't read expecting every word or sentence to make perfect, precise sense. Set yourself free to inhabit the prose. Stop trying to analyze and just experience. Most of what makes the book hard to read for many -- when you let go, you stop even noticing it.

Let the words be triggers for your senses and emotions, instead of trying to perfectly grasp the events from one sentence to the next. It's not about the plot anyways -- it's about the portrayal of a time, an emotion -- which is best accomplished when you drop your need to analyze and just experience.

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