Oct 5 2009

The Sound and the Fury

The Old Compson HouseStream of consciousness writing can be very interesting, enjoyable, and provocative. I found none of that in this book. In fact, I am stunned (gobsmacked?) by the scholarship and critical acclaim that has been heaped onto this “masterpiece” since its publication in 1929. While I’m sure Faulkner felt very liberated exploring this style, I found his use of it tiresome, obtrusive, and awkward. Pushing through the first 70+ pages was an effort of pure will. The second section (from the point of view of Quentin) was tedious, meandering, inconclusive, and put me to sleep more than once (granted, my attention span is not the best).  The third section (from Jason’s point of view) was better. The fourth section (from Dilsey’s point of view) was well-written, coherent, and a relief (much like inhaling for the first time after holding your breath underwater for some personal time record… yes, headaches and all). I don’t expect every detail to be handed to me on a silver platter but get a bit annoyed when I’m left to guess whether there’s a platter at all.

Now, I know that my attention wanders a bit, sometimes more than just a bit. But when I reach the end of a book (especially one over 300 pages) I expect to know who all the characters were, how they were related to one another, and why the story was being told in the first place. Unless you’ve read this book a number of times, one of the only ways you’re going to know these things is by reading an appendix written by the author in 1933 (which is laden with inconsistencies). Having now read the appendix and understanding more about the characters and storyline I just pushed through, I guess I will enjoy the book better the second time through… if that is ever to happen, which I doubt. The facts that I’ve heard so many good things about Faulkner and that the last section gave me some insight into what he’s capable of, may entice me to try some of his other works… but for now I’m going to give my brain and my tolerance a much needed break.

The quote I picked to sum up this review is not from the book itself but from an introduction the author wrote in 1933:

“It’s fine to think that you will leave something behind you when you die, but it’s better to have made something you can die with.”

2 out of 5