Friday, March 2, 2007

Deaf & Furious!

The Sound and the Fury

As I Lay Dying

Author: William Faulkner
Genre: American;

Southern Literature

Published: 1929

Began Reading:
January 5th, 2006

Finished Reading:
January 24th, 2006
(both of them)

I guess I can say that its a bonus for the Classics Challenge! Yeah, that's 7 guys!

I finished what is known to be Faulkner's masterpiece, even before Oprah decreed it so, The Sound and the Fury, at the perfect time: two customers walked in and after my offer for coffee was accepted we proceeded to converse for sometime the many dimensions of Faulkner.

R, a cegep teacher here in Montreal who did his phd in British history, was explaining how he got into Faulkner's work. A friend of R had sat him down to explain all the little points such as Italics = memory and the narrative structure. K had to read this for class and she seemed to agree with most of what I had to say about it which is basically that it's hard to talk about.

The Sound and The Fury is a story that tells its tale through the train of thought of three members in the Compson family. A white family that lives in Jackson with 'lazy black' servants to support. The tale is actually summurized in the appendix at the end - Faulkner doesn't care as much about the events then he does the thoughts that preceed this, the mental breckdown - or makeup - of his characters.

I was suprised because for some reason had thought that this was a war book. (Consequence of being libra - we judge books by their covers & titles.) The horrible part was having an edition where the appendix was at the begining of the book . Since it was written by the author I was sure that it belonged in the begining and thus the plot was spoiled completly for me. Yes, yes its supposed to be about the text but christ I revert to the wise words of Edward Said when it comes to text and entertainment (which is basically that every reader has the right to enjoy what they read).

After reading a few classics (for the renowned Classics challenge), I picked up As I Lay Dying. Though the other reads were intence, enjoyable and memorable, Faulkner still echoed within, nagging at me about SOMETHING. Thinking that reading another of his texts would bring some insight on what exactly 'is Faulkner all about', all it did was make me fall in love with the teasing glimpse he gives the audiance of his characters' innerworkings .

Really there is not much of a plot for either text and no characters that one walks away and 'carries with them'. Instead, reading Faulkner is more about the 'Being John Malcovich' experiance then anything else. He forces you to stretch and exhaust yourself by becoming a mental handicap, a greedy logical businessman, or a doomed scholar. Suddenly, when reading a page of Faulkner, the cold Montreal weather becomes the dry Southern air and you hate the experiance but for some reason - some unexplainable reason - you stay and read on and read more even when your mouth fills with sand.

The Sound and the Fury seemed to more of a comment on human nature than As I Lay Dying's insight on what is the odscure. In S&F, there are three narrators, one based on emotion, the second intellect and the last logic. All are overcome, realistically, by this oh-so-human factor and each of these male characters falls to their dimise to some extent because of this. Though some of Faulkner's insight on Southern life comes forward in both books, As I Lay Dying gives us more narratives of a family who is crossing towns, through obstacles after obstacle, with their mother's corpse. By far the easier read, I am happy that I have read it if only because it mentally prepared me for My Name is Red (my present read) which switches narrative often (to say the least).

If anything, hats off to Faulkner for his command of the English word. The way the words BECOME the character... one can read any paragraph in the book aloud and if your familiar with the charcters, you'll understand who is speaking the words. His ability to empathize and develop is worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize to accompany the one he did win in 1949 for Literature.

In closing, this last part I dedicate to you M ... with 'love & squalor':

On writing, Faulkner remarked, "Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him."


Bookfool said...

Oh, wow, great review and what a terrific quote.

We're having a dry spell, but I've never heard the South described as dry - sticky, humid, and hot are more like it! That comment caught me off-guard, although I get your drift about being there, vicariously, through the character.

I guess I should mention that my son lives in Oxford, MS (his home, Rowan Oak, is somewhere in Oxford - haven't made it there, yet) and we're about three hours south so we're in Faulkner country. Did you miss my post on the bookstores in Oxford? You must go have a peek, if you did. It's still visible.

Back on topic . . . So far, The Unvanquished is my only read by WF. I was just flat blown away by his grasp of the language. I looked and I do have The Sound and The Fury on one of my numerous shelves. Figures. I'm not done with the classics. That Classics Challenge was such a great boost!

Anonymous said...

This has to be one of my favorite reviews of yours. It is gorgeously written! You actually made me want to run out and buy this book and I never read classics, the closest I come is vintage Joyce Carol Oates.

nessie said...

Oh Bookfool, when i have traveled its always been to Europe but after reading this book I really really want to make the treck down south. someday babe someday