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Absalom, Absalom!
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Readalongs > Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner (Gill and others)

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Gill | 5720 comments I'm starting reading Absalom, Absalom! at the beginning of August. If you'd like to join me, that would great.


message 2: by Johanna (new) - added it

Johanna | 130 comments I'd love to join you, but I checked to see if I could swap As I Lay Dying for Absalom, Absalom in the 2016 Old & New Classic Challenge and I can't. Given that I'm way behind on all my challenges, I shouldn't add yet another book.... :-(


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Gill, I'd love to join in! I already have a copy. Looking forward to it.


Gill | 5720 comments That's good, Terri. I'm also looking forward to it.


Gill | 5720 comments I'm starting reading this on Monday.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

I'll start Monday as well. :)


Gill | 5720 comments I've decided to use Sparknotes with this. I'm not sure yet whether I'll read them before or after each chapter. I find it reassuring to know I have them to fall back on.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Gill, I used Sparknotes when I read The Sound and the Fury recently, and I would have been lost without them. For that book I read the notes before I read the chapter. I'm not sure yet what I'll do for Absalom, Absalom!.


Gill | 5720 comments I've just started chapter 3. I think the section as to why Clytemnestra was so called is wonderful. I used the Sparknotes for the first couple of chapters, before reading each one, but I think I'm OK now.

The language and structure is wonderful. I'm reading it nice and slow, and can hear the words in my head. I love it!


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

I've only finished chapter 1 but I hope to read more tonight. I tried it without the SparkNotes but was totally lost. I think I have a handle on the characters and the foundation of the story now. I agree, Gill, the language is beautiful.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

I spent all my reading time today on Faulkner, and I'm in the middle of chapter 4. I continue to love the language; I can get lost in the sentences. I keep a notebook of passages in books that I like, and I filled several pages today. One of the images I liked was "sunbuoyed." So simple, but a great description. Today I downloaded from my library an interview with William Faulkner. I'll be listening to it later and I'm looking forward to hearing him speak.


message 12: by Gill (last edited Aug 04, 2016 05:32AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gill | 5720 comments I'm partway through chapter 4. Have I understood this correctly, that Sutpen has a black mistress who is the mother of Clytenmestra, yet he is objecting to Bon having a black mistress and daughter? Or at least, that's what we think from the story so far. As in this is what Compson thinks.


message 13: by Gill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gill | 5720 comments Another question from chapter 4. Is Compson suggesting that Henry and Bon had a sexual relationship?


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Gill, what I understood was that Sutpen had the same "octoroon" mistress in New Orleans and Sutpen was actually Bon's father, and that makes Judith and Bon half-siblings.

I think the relationship between Bon and Henry is not sexual, but there is a kind of romantic love there. Faulkner says something about Bon "seducing" both brother and sister.

I listened to a recording of Faulkner last night. Part of it was from his acceptance speech in 1949 for the Nobel Prize. There were then readings from As I Lay Dying, The Old Man, and A Fable. His voice was very weak, and he has a thick southern accent that was kind of hard to understand at times. I'm glad I got to hear his voice.


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Here are a few things I noted in the speech Faulkner gave:

"There are no longer problems of the spirit. There's only the question When will I be blown up?

"We have forgotten about the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself."

"The basis of all things is to be afraid."

"I decline to accept the end of man."

"Man is immortal because he has a soul."

He also talked about "the ding dong of doom."


message 16: by Gill (last edited Aug 05, 2016 12:50PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gill | 5720 comments “There are some things which happen to us which the intelligence and the senses refuse just as the stomach sometimes refuses what the palate has accepted but which digestion cannot compass - occurrences which stop us dead as though by some impalpable intervention, like a sheet of glass through which we watch all subsequent events transpire as though in a soundless vacuum, and fade, vanish; are gone, leaving us immobile, impotent, helpless; fixed, until we can die. That was I”

I wonder what else is worth reading after sentences like this- from Chapter 5.


message 17: by Gill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gill | 5720 comments Terri wrote: "Gill, what I understood was that Sutpen had the same "octoroon" mistress in New Orleans and Sutpen was actually Bon's father, and that makes Judith and Bon half-siblings.

I think the relationship ..."


Thanks, Terri. I hadn't picked up about the mistress.

Was the recording of Faulkner online?


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Gill, it was an audiobook that I got from my library.

I'll be starting chapter 5 tonight. :)


message 19: by Michael (new)

Michael Henderson (Michael_Henderson) Gill wrote: "“There are some things which happen to us which the intelligence and the senses refuse just as the stomach sometimes refuses what the palate has accepted but which digestion cannot compass - occurr..."

I found this book too opaque. And this whole chapter is in italics. Was that necessary?


message 20: by Gill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gill | 5720 comments The chapter's not in italics in the edition I'm reading, Michael.


message 21: by Gill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gill | 5720 comments Just started chapter 7. In both this and the previous chapter, I'm amused by the way that Shreve interrupts Quentin as he is telling his story. Faulkner manages to write it exactly as this sort of thing happens in real life.

Unfortunately, I need to finish this by Thursday, because I won't have access to the book for a few days after that. It's a shame, because I'd rather be reading it slower, so that I have plenty of time to relish the language.


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

In my edition, the parts in italic are from the letters that were written.

I'm a little into chapter 8. I do like taking my time with the text. I love the language and I love to savor it. As far as being opaque, it may be at times. But as I look things up and reread passages, I realize it's not opaque at all, it just requires some work to fully understand the text. That's part of the challenge for me, and it deepens my pleasure in the reading.

I had the relationships a little mixed up as far as Bon's mother and his octoroon mistress, but the crucial fact was that Judith and Bon were half-siblings. It's surprising to me that Henry could overlook the incest, but when he found out Bon had Negro blood, that was what he couldn't accept. Astounding.


message 23: by Gill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gill | 5720 comments In the first half of chapter 7, I found Sutpen's description of his childhood incredibly moving. I'm going to finish this chapter this evening.


message 24: by Gill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gill | 5720 comments I'm partway through chapter 8. I have to keep reminding myself that much of what I'm reading is Shreve's version of what happened.

It's like being a detective, putting all the different bits together. How much can we ever know accurately about someone else's life?

I need to read more, probably nonfiction, about the American Civil War and its impact on the South. I've read a bit about the English Civil War, but not the American one.


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Johanna | 130 comments Gill, in looking for Faulkner resources, I came across this:
The Center for Faulkner Studies has launched a second Faulkner MOOC (Massive Open Online Class), "Faulkner and Southern History," on the internet. Taught by Robert Hamblin and Christopher Rieger, the class will examine three Faulkner novels: The Unvanquished, Absalom, Absalom!, and Go Down, Moses. The class may be accessed at https://mooc.semo.edu/login/index.php. Join us (it's free, and there are no exams or papers!), and invite your friends to participate as well.
I haven't registered, but will do so as I intend to read my way through Foulkner...


message 26: by Gill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gill | 5720 comments Thanks, Johana. I'll have a look into that.


message 27: by Gill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gill | 5720 comments I've read s lot today, and have got to the end. I thought chapter 9 was brilliant, and I liked how it and chapter 1 bookended the whole story. I 'll leave any other comments till you've finished, Terri.


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

I finished early this morning, Gill. I'm left in a state of wonder at the immensity of this book. I've read a lot about the American Civil War, and I've seen the Ken Burns documentary series several times. (If you have access to this, it's very well-researched, well-produced, and deeply moving.) Even so, I don't feel I truly understand the American South, but I've learned so much from Faulkner.

I just love the language, the sentences, the feel that this book gives. This is the kind of reading experience I cherish. Something that challenges me intellectually and emotionally and spiritually. Faulkner's writing about the meaning of the past is what drew me to him initially. And I've found an entire literary world, one I will happily explore further.

Some phrases that struck me:
"some effluvium of Sutpen blood and character"
"slothy unregret"
"as lagniappe to the revenge"

I don't know what to think about the ending. The fact that Jim Bond is the legacy of Sutpen blood. Does that mean his "design" was destroyed? Or is the fact that his bloodline continues enough? The way he felt about "negro blood" I can hardly believe he'd be happy.

So much to think about! I look forward to your comments, Gill.


message 29: by Gill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gill | 5720 comments Terri, so sorry, I've forgotten to add any comments. And now it's bedtime! I'll try to get it done tomorrow,


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

No worries, Gill. :)


message 31: by Gill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gill | 5720 comments I don't know which will be the images that I remember from this book a few months from now. But the part that is sticking in my mind at present, is where Faulkner is talking about the two horsemen, and then changes it to talking about the four horsemen, this including Quentin and Shreve. Then he goes to and fro between two and four. What an amazing image of how the past and present link together, and how the Civil War and its impact on the South still lives on. I thought this part was utterly brilliant.

The other image that sticks with me, is from Chapter 7, when Thomas Sutpen, as a child went to the front door, and was told he had to use the back one. Without this incident, my opinion of him would have been so different.

Yes, Terri, it's hard to credit that a trace of Negro blood was more unacceptable than incest. Have you read Light in August? There's a part there that also shocked me, because until then I hadn't realised just how much prejudice there would be about being 'tainted ' by a little bit of negro blood. It also shocked me when the old woman pushed Clytie away when she touched her, presumably because she was black?

When I was growing up, I was very aware of apartheid in South Africa, and how people were classified into different groups, and how this could tear families apart. I don't think I really thought through how much something similar happened in other societies.

A couple of questions:

Do we actually know whether the lawyer 'set it up' for Bon and Henry to meet, as a form of revenge for Bon's mother? Or is this just Shreve's supposition?

I didn't understand how long Henry had been living back at the house. Had been hiding there ever since he killed Bon? Or had he come back recently?

I'm not sure re Jim Bond and Sutpen, and what Faulkner was intimating. Maybe that when Sutpen wanted above all for his dynasty to continue, his obsession with this caused all the chaos and tragedy, and that he hadn't thought through all the implications. I find the whole situation regarding the different races and attitudes so difficult to grasp.

Have you read Invisible Man? I'd not heard of it and read it until recently. That was a real eye opener for me; definitely a book that changed my view of the USA, and I guess of people in general.


message 32: by Johanna (last edited Aug 10, 2016 12:50PM) (new) - added it

Johanna | 130 comments I saw an interview with Civil War historian Shelby Foote discussing Faulkner on YouTube where he says that Faulkner's depiction of life for black people in the South is the closest anyone has come to truly showing what that reality was like. Foote was also from the South and knew Faulkner quite well. It's a great interview and it's here if you're interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBFMF...


message 33: by Gill (new) - rated it 4 stars

Gill | 5720 comments Thanks, Johana. I'll have a look at this over the weekend.


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

Gill, somewhere in the last pages it said that Henry had been back for about 4 years. I noted it at the time because I thought he had been there the whole time.

I love your insights, Gill. I haven't read Light in August but I may try it soon. The only other Faulkner I have on hand is Requiem for a Nun. I read Invisible Man a few years ago, and it was quite an eye-opener for me as well.

Johanna, thanks for that link!

Gill, a pleasure reading with you. :)


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