Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Sound and the Fury--William Faulkner

Year Published: 1929
Pages: 378
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4/5

When I first began reading this book, I had no idea what was going on. Why were events streaming from one to the next, and where the heck was the punctuation? Welcome to the wonderful world of Faulkner, whom I had never read before. I will try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but pieces of the story will probably leak out. I'm not sure that that would've ruined my experience--it probably would've made it easier for me to grasp the storyline.

The novel is a story of a prominent southern family's downfall, but it is not told in a straightforward manner. The first part is told from Benjie's point of view. Benjie is a grown man who suffers from mental retardation, and his concept of time is nonexistent. Therefore his memories lapse from today to twenty years ago to five years ago to this morning. They are all centered around his sister Caddie (who begins the family's shame) and the family's pasture (which is sold to pay for his brother Quentin's Harvard education, and becomes a golf course).

The next section is Quentin's, and is eighteen years previous. This is where we learn of Caddie's discrepancies. Quentin is so shamed by his sister's indecency--and by his thoughts and stirrings for her--that he loses his mind, and this section is stream-of-consciousness rambling as he wanders the streets of Boston. He ultimately drowns himself.

Next we hear from Jason, one of the most unlikeable characters ever created. Jason's story is told straightforward, but his sexism, racism, and contempt for his family make this section almost as difficult to read as the others. He is now the head of the family, where he makes life difficult for the servants and his sister Caddie's illegitimate daughter, who lives with them.

The last section is third person narration, and follows Dilsey, the long-time family servant. After this section an appendix tells some of the ancestral family history, clears up some of the confusion, and affirms some of what we have guessed.

As difficult as this book was to read, I really liked it. The writing can be hauntingly beautiful, and the family becomes more and more vivid as one reads. I plan on reading more Faulkner--perhaps As I Lay Dying?

Challenge/s: TBR (alt), Decades, Naming Conventions, 1% Well Read, States (MS)
Book-a-Week # 59

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