Featured Post

Now Available: The Brutal Blade of Bruno the Bandit Vol. 6!

Brutal Blade Vol. 6 is live and on the air! With this book, we reach the midpoint of the Bruno the Bandit archives, and also reach a turni...

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Reading the Unreadable - #2: The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner


For anyone who doesn't know, or might possibly care, the list I'm using for my reading of the most unreadable books is this one published a few years ago by Buzzfeed.  Technically, by their criteria, these books are not necessarily unreadable, just difficult to get through.
I'm not sure why "The Sound and the Fury" by Faulkner made it onto that list, let alone to the #2 spot.  About the book, they say:
"The style is stream of consciousness with three different narrators and one third-person section. The first narrator is mentally disabled to the extent that he cannot process linear time and jumps between past and present mid-sentence."
Perhaps I'm just in a better mindset for it after just coming off Finnegan's Wake, but not only did I find this one relatively easy to get through, but I actually enjoyed it.  I didn't understand all of it, but I got enough of the story to enjoy Faulkner's deep dive into his characters.

Reading this book is like hearing events told through several characters internal monologue, sort of a Southern Gothic take on Rashomon.    The story of a Southern family in what appears to be a rapid decline, it is told through the perspective of a mentally challenged adult, an anguished college student, the conniving elder male of the family and through an omniscient view of the African-American maid Dilsey.  With such a diverse range of characters, each with their own idiolect and idiosyncracies, the reader is given an exploration of character and setting that is in-depth and personal in a way that no other narrative choices could deliver.

Although the unique nature of each character's inner voice makes the actual story hard to follow at times, it doesn't take a terribly in-depth understanding to figure out the main points of what is happening, and how the family is reacting to it.  As an outsider to Faulkner's work, I may be an outlier in thinking this, but it seems to me that this book is not so much about the story as it is about the characters; about the different viewpoints that can surround a set of events.  If there's any takeaway from this novel, it seems to me that it is the subjectivity of consciousness and experience.
 
It helps, too, that Faulkner's language is at times beautiful.  With sentences like, "Two tears slid down her fallen cheeks, in and out of the myriad coruscations of immolation and abnegation and time," used to describe Dilsey, this book can be pure joy to read, even if full comprehension is lacking.  It's a trip that's not about the destination, but it's definitely worth the journey.

I suspect that the rest of the books on this list won't be quite so easy to read, however.  Up next will be Geoffrey Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" in it's original English.  This one could prove an uphill battle.

No comments: