Monday, January 31, 2011

Week 4: The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner

I underestimated The Sound and the Fury. Because it is a classic, I had a vague idea of the premise of this book despite never having read it. I was simply expecting a drama about an aristocratic Southern family’s decline. It didn’t take long before I realized that this book was much more than that, and also, downright crazy. I mean “crazy” in the mind-boggling sense. As in, I put this book down multiple times to furrow my brow and mouth, “WTF?” But I mean this in the best way possible. I was not prepared for Faulkner’s wild writing. The book is divided into four sections, each with a different narrator and radically different perspectives. Stream of consciousness is a technique that is employed heavily in certain parts of the story, and it is fascinating and extremely poetic. It can also be incredibly confusing at times, but even so, it’s rewarding in the same way that piecing together a jigsaw puzzle is rewarding. The story emerges in bits as opposed to being revealed clearly all at once. Additionally, the characters for the most part are either wholly unlikable or deeply flawed. Not to mention the book is filled with racial terms that are historically accurate for the time the story takes place, but are still cringeworthy. Oh, and speaking of cringeworthy, let’s throw in some other creepy elements, such as: suicide, hypochondria, harassment of a mentally retarded man, black servants, borderline incest, promiscuity, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, disownment, embezzlement and whippings. Despite all of this, the book is thoroughly engaging and truly artistic. Its abstract nature seems so fresh and modern even though it was published in 1929, and the reader can easily see how other authors might have been inspired by Faulkner’s writing. I don’t think I will easily forget this book and I'm glad I read it.

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