Thursday, March 15, 2018

Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner


 Here is a piano transcription of Jean-Pillippe Rameau's Nouvelle Suites performed by Alexandre Tharaud.



We have had some rain, which I like, but what I don't like is the small moat that develops on our walkway between the mailbox and the house.








Absalom, Absalom!Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I don't know if I'm just getting the hang of William Faulkner's style of expression, but so far I have enjoyed this novel the best of all of the ones I have read so far (which only includes As I Lay Dying and The Sound and The Fury).

Even so, this novel is written far differently than the others. As I Lay Dying was written from inside of each character's mind, thinking as they would think to themselves without explaining anything to a third party. Each chapter is narrated by a different character and putting all the narrators' thoughts together, the reader is able to come to a conclusion as to what is happening.

The same is true for The Sound and The Fury. The entire book has four chapters which take place over two consecutive days, interrupted by an incident that happened twenty years prior in a chapter in between. Each chapter is narrated by a different person. The first chapter by a mentally retarded thirty year old man. Faulkner enjoys toying with his reader; two characters have the same nickname. They are siblings but different genders. We only gather clues as to what the heck is happening by reading the narrators thoughts and they don't try to clear anything up, since naturally they are only thinking to themselves.

Absalom, Absalom! is different from the previous two in that, while there are different narrators (about four, I think) they are telling their stories, or rather they are telling the same story, to other people in the book which makes for a clearer rendition of the telling for the reader.

Faulkner still likes to hint and suggest and one has to read the entire story to put the pieces together and discover what has happened. I do not want to spoil the story for other people because the ending is rather startling (to me, anyway) but here is a bit of what is going on.

A stranger, Thomas Sutpen comes to Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. This is the fictitious place that Faulkner created that bares no small resemblance to his own home town area in and around Oxford, Mississippi. Like many writers- me, for instance- he wrote characters based on people he knew. Which is why I hope only strangers read my books.

Although God help anyone who actually resembles Faulkner's characters because some of them are formidable.

Thomas Sutpen arrives much to the consternation of the old families. This is before the Civil War when a well-defined Southern Aristocracy existed. He buys up property and calls it Sutpen's Hundred. He marries a local girl from a wealthy family. Everyone is shocked and refuses to come to the wedding.

Sutpen and his wife have a couple of children and pretty much stay hidden on Sutpen's hundred. As various narrators describe life there, we also get a slow but eventually complete picture of Sutpen and the sort of person he is. Without revealing anything, he is a dark, complicated person and so is his progeny.

In the meantime, we get a look at the South before, during and after the Civil War. We see what honor means to a Southern person and how it can become twisted and dark. We see how important it was for a poor, white man to achieve his own family dynasty and how he succeeded and also how he failed.

We see the relations between white and black people and the wheels within wheels that formed those relationships. Nothing is simple in life and neither is it in a Faulkner novel.

One interesting aspect about this book is that every narrator, male or female has the same ponderous, Gothic voice. It doesn't matter who is talking.

Reading Faulkner in some way reminds me of the chanting of a Greek chorus. It is without emotion while it describes highly emotional situations. As a reader I found myself compelled to enter and be swallowed.

I will be interested in seeing how future Faulkner novels compare to the ones I've read so far.



View all my reviews




10 comments:

  1. Super review of this book Sharon. I have only read Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. I struggled with that one a bit, but I did get a lot out of it. I think that I should give it a reread. Your commentary further convinces me that I should give this and other Faulkner works a try.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Brian. I steered clear of Faulkner for many years and I only began reading him a couple of years ago. I can't remember why I decided to give him a try. I'm glad I did.

      Delete
  2. i tried F (i bet a lot of people have said that) w/o success... i first read his book of "mystery" stories, Knight's Gambit, and i thought the writing was awful... i admit i've read some shorter works that were pretty funny and i learned how to pronounce yoknopatapha county, but that's about the limit... you've got more ambition than me, i can tell; i'd just as soon read another Gardner...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I fully understand, Mudpuddle. And since the weekend is upon us, I will be cracking open the Case of the Something or Other and perhaps a Lam and Cool to boot!

      Delete
  3. Bravo! Your commitment to reading the novels is commendable. I confess that I prefer the short stories. Perhaps you try some of them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, R.T. I have a collection of his short stories, but I haven't gotten around to reading them yet. There are on the mountain called TBR.

      Delete
  4. Whenever I think of Faulkner, the first story I remember is "A Rose for Emily"--a creepy brilliant tale. I've read more of his short stories, too, but not his longer work. Nice piano selection!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Marcia. A Rose for Emily is definitely one of the most horrifying endings I've ever read. So far none of his novels have been that gruesome, although they are still rather dark. I guess that is why his work is called Southern Gothic.

      Delete
  5. We've had similar experiences with Faulkner. This was also my third, after S&F and As I Lay Dying, and I also liked it best at that time, though I'm still not a huge fan. Next for me was Light in August, which I liked still a bit better (consider that a recommendation if you like) :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Joseph. I was just looking at Light in August. That will probably be my next Faulkner, although I usually take a year between Faulkners before reading the next one. He is kind of heavy.

      Delete

I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.