The Sound and the Fury

Faulkner, William. Novels 1926 – 1929: The Sound and the Fury. The Library of America, 2006.

Reason read: December is Southern Fiction month. Luckily, this is the last Faulkner I have to read.

I wish I could say I adored The Sound and the Fury. I feel like I have an obligation to at least like Faulkner’s writing style because it is so close to another author I actually love, James Joyce. Faulkner appears to be heavily influenced by the Irish author.
Even though Sound got easier and easier to read as I went along, I couldn’t like the characters. Getting into the minds of the three Compson brothers didn’t help. Benjamin, Quentin, and Jason’s narratives all blur together and become one complicated and tangled stream of consciousness. I learned early on that the trick to Faulkner is to remember chronology is of little importance, the duplicity of names can be confusing, and for The Sound and the Fury, you must be comfortable with themes of mental illness, incest, and suicide. Virginity is a commodity in southern fiction. The moral of the story is every tree has a few secret nuts.

Lines I found myself liking: “She approved of Gerald associating with me because I at least revealed a blundering sense of noblesse oblige by getting myself born below the Mason and Dixon, and a few others whose Geography met the requirements (minimum)” (p 947), and “Honeysuckle is the saddest odor of all, I think” (p 1007). Not a line, but I liked the random illustrated eye.
As an aside, I would like to see the Sound and the Fury movie. I think I might understand the plot a little better if I did.

Author fact: Faulkner skipped the second grade and his surname used to be spelled without the ‘u.’

Book trivia: the appendix includes 46 years of Compson history, some helpful and some not so much.

Nancy said: Pearl called all of Faulkner’s novels “enduring.” Just how they endure, I don’t know.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Southern Fried Fiction” (p 205).


September Slipped Away

September was a cool month. On the 10th I ran a half marathon (2:10:16), was able to get to Monhegan (and introduce the island to some new people), and get to a lot of reading:

  1. Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill
  2. Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng
  3. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
  4. Consul’s Wife by W.T. Tyler
  5. Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry (AB)
  6. Life and Death of Edwin Mullhouse by Steven Millhauser
  7. Four-Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright
  8. Best Game Ever by Mark Bowden
  9. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  10. Which Side Are You On? by Elaine Harger (ER)
  11. Which Side Are You On? by George Ella Lyon (for fun)

AB = Audio book
ER = Early review


Absalom, Absalom!

Faulkner, William. Absalom, Absalom! New York: Library of America, 1984.

Reason read: September is Southern Gospel Month. You can’t get much more southern than Faulkner!
To be honest, there was some confusion as to when I really read this book. On LibraryThing I had marked it “accomplished” and the detail of tags indicated I had read it at some time…but I couldn’t find a review. Not here, nor on LibraryThing. Plus, it was still on my challenge list. Weird.

Every town has their legends; the stories passed down from generation to generation. The Mississippi town of Jefferson has the story of Thomas Sutpen and his “Sutpen One Hundred.” All told, Thomas Sutpen was seen as a strange, mysterious and even evil man. When he first arrived in Jefferson no one knew his story. He bought one hundred acres of land and then disappeared, leaving the townspeople to talk, talk, talk. When he returned again he had a crew of slaves, materials, and a plan to build a mansion, a legacy. All the while he continues to be secretive and uncommunicative causing the townspeople speculate as to what he’s really up to (as people are bound to do when left to their own devices). The gossip subsides only a little when Sutpen finishes his beautiful home and marries a respectable woman. Quietly he starts a family when his wife gives birth to a son and a daughter. But the chatter can’t escape him. New rumors crop up when word gets around of Sutpen encouraging savage fights between his slaves. There’s talk he even joins in for sport. And that’s just the beginning.
Ultimately, Absalom, Absalom! is a story of tragedy after tragedy. Faulkner described it as a story about a man who wanted a son, had too many of them & they ended up destroying him.

Author fact: Faulkner realized his hometown had a wealth of stories to tell.

Book trivia: in my opinion, this was the most complicated of Faulkner’s books if only because the plot was so involved.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Southern Fried Fiction” (p 206).


Septembering

I’m not exactly sure what September will bring. The renovations for the library are finally finished (with a crazy punch list, I might add). The backyard is complete minus the hot tub, fire pit and patio furniture (that’s stage II). I have a half mara in ten days so I’m anticipating a good run month. Here are the planned books:

  • Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day
  • Edwin Mullhouse: the life and death of an American Writer – to honor kids in September
  • Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng – Mao died of cancer in September.
  • Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry – Cold War ended in September
  • The Trial by Franz Kafka – September is the best month to visit the Czech Republic.
  • Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner – September is Southern Gospel month
  • Which Side are You On? by Elaine Harger – an Early Review from LibraryThing.

Light in August

Faulkner, William. Novels 1930 – 1935: Light in August. New York: The Library of America, 1996.

Reason read: I was thinking I should read this in August, just for the title. Instead, I’m reading it in July because of Faulkner’s death month. How morbid of me.

I found this to be one of the more enjoyable Faulkner stories. There was more plot and less stream-of-consciousness. The characters are fewer and more fully developed. Lena Grove is a pregnant white woman from Alabama looking for her man in Jefferson, Mississippi. Gail Hightower, a former reverend is forced into retirement and nearly run out of town for his wife’s erratic behavior and subsequent suicide. Joe Christmas, one of the strongest main characters, is an orphan who thinks he has “nigger blood” despite his pale skin.

There are several elements of repetition to Faulkner’s work. Most stories take place in Jefferson, Mississippi. There is usually one character that is mixed race and as a result, struggling with identity. A fire usually breaks out somewhere. Someone usually is pregnant. Probably the most typical reoccurring element is style. Faulkner uses flashbacks to either tell a story or fill in the gaps of one. Light in August was one of the more easier ones to follow.

Author fact: Like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Faulkner died of a heart attack in the month of July.

Book trivia: Faulkner began writing Light in August in August 1931 and it was published in October 1932.

BookLust Twist: first, in Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Read, Decade By Decade: 1930s (p 177). Second, in More Book Lust in a chapter that doesn’t really make sense to me. “You Can’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover” (p 238). But, Pearl isn’t bringing up Light in August because its cover contradicts what it’s about. Faulkner is just one of the books in Alan Powers’s Front Cover.