Featured Post

Now Available: The Brutal Blade of Bruno the Bandit Vol. 8!

 Long overdue, but worth the wait, The Brutal Blade of Bruno the Bandit Vol. 8 is now available!  Gaze in wonder at the cover by Clint "...

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.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I just started 'The Sound and the Fury' so thanks for your insight because I was ready to give up on it. I'm not a stranger to dense or difficult lititure and pride myself on being well read but the 1st chapter of this had me frustrated with the time leaps and non lineur narrative but as you pointed out I do enjoy the poetic power of it to. I had always been aware of Faulkner but am now just getting around to reading him.