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The Hamlet Paperback – October 29, 1991


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage International edition (October 29, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679736530
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679736530
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The Hamlet, the first novel of Faulkner's Snopes trilogy, is both an ironic take on classical tragedy and a mordant commentary on the grand pretensions of the antebellum South and the depths of its decay in the aftermath of war and Reconstruction. It tells of the advent and the rise of the Snopes family in Frenchman's Bend, a small town built on the ruins of a once-stately plantation. Flem Snopes -- wily, energetic, a man of shady origins -- quickly comes to dominate the town and its people with his cunning and guile.

About the Author

William Faulkner was born in New Albany, Mississippi, on September 25, 1897. He published his first book, The Marble Faun (a collection of poems), in 1924, and his first novel, Soldier's Pay, in 1926. In 1949, having written such works as Absalom, Absalom!, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, and The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He also received the Pulitzer Prize for two other novels, A Fable (1954) and The Reivers (1962). From 1957 to 1958 he was Writer-in-Residence at the University of Virginia. He died on July 6, 1962, in Byhalia, Mississippi.

Customer Reviews

Each of these characters is unique and fully realized.
Ethan Cooper
For all its attempts to elucidate the economic and social structures that led to the decline of the south, this book is best in its portrayal and critique of romance.
John Cullom
One of the best series I ever read and fine literature, in an ultra-Twain sense, to boot.
Patrick W. Crabtree

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Ethan Cooper VINE VOICE on October 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
Faulkner assembled much of THE HAMLET from short stories, where his themes were courtship, lust, love, and obsession or where the average person succumbs to greed or foolishness and is victimized in business.

Take the subject of love. In THE HAMLET, Faulkner examines obsessive and unrequited love through his characters Labove (an achiever obsessed with untouchable beauty) and Ike Snopes (a retarded man in love with a cow); ambivalent love through the experience of Mink Snopes (a vicious murderer) and Jack Houston (a guilty widower); and loveless marriage through the lives of Eula Varner and Mrs. Armstid, who are at the top and bottom of social hierarchy. Each of these characters is unique and fully realized. Yet each suffers from cruel variations of a single force.

Not to be a pedant: But Robert Penn Warren described THE HAMLET as: "...a sequence of contrasting or paralleling stories" where Faulkner's "...movement was not linear but spiral, passing over the same point again and again, but at different altitudes." This is exactly right.

At the same time, THE HAMLET is about Faulkner's writing. Here's one quick example, with this great author writing about the weather. "It was a gray day, of the color and texture of iron, one of those windless days of a plastic rigidity too dead to make or release snow even, in which even light did not alter but seemed to appear complete out of nothing at dawn and would expire into darkness without gradation." Great isn't it?

Even so, I was surprised by one aspect of THE HAMLET. It is: terrible things happen to all the characters. This even includes Flem Snopes who is a winner in the male world of business but surely locked in a loveless marriage. Yet despite their cruel fates, Faulkner's amazing characters persevere.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 7, 1996
Format: Paperback
Although I have been a Faulkner fan practically since birth,
I put off reading the Snopes trilogy for years because, I
suppose, it seemed inconceivable that Faulkner could write
more than a small number of books as gripping and involved
as "The Sound and the Fury" or "Light in August" or "Absalom,
Absalom"; in other words, I delayed reading the back volumes
of his oeuvre, as it were, in order to stave off
disappointment, to delay the moment at which I would have to
admit that Faulkner, even Faulkner, could not be great all
of the time. After all, who could expect such Biblical
grandeur and keen insight from yet another book covering the
same Mississippi turf? But Faulkner is nothing if not
surprising: his prose here is just as innovative and
finely-tuned as in his better-known work, and the chapters
-- many of them published separately as short stories, such
as the famed "Spotted Horses" -- are individual gems which,
when added up and interconnected, form a satisfyingly
complex and interdependent whole. Faulkner is the very greatest, the
writer who almost single-handedly raised American literature
to the level of myth; who saw most clearly the meaning of
roots and background in the shaping of human lives; who
understood most incisively how such stories could grip and
lash the imagination, and the consciousness, of a receptive
reader. I plan to read the next installments of this trilogy
post-haste, without regard to potential disappointment: I
trust him now to take the story to new heights.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By John Wraith on March 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
I'm not sure how exactly to say this without sounding closed-minded and elitist, so I'll apologize right off the bat for that. But I'm not sure the people who disparage this novel on this website quite "get it," and I think part of the reason might be that most of those people aren't from the South. This is an episodic, rambling, distinctly Southern story, told in an episodic, rambling, distinctly Southern way. That's just how things work down here, and I realize it's not that way in Hoboken (which is fine too). It's also a very rural setting, so that may turn some people off or lead to some misunderstanding.

Having said that, this book is a major Faulkner work, meaning it's great, not merely good. It's his most explicit critique of capitalism and his most explicit commentary on love in all its forms, and it's a very funny one at that -- again, it's from a Southern angle, though; if you've lived in an industrial rather than rural society your whole life, it may not appeal to you as much. Like most Faulkner, you have to settle into the prose and the pace.

The characters The Hamlet introduces are among Faulkner's most memorable: the rapacious Flem, the wonderful Ratliff, the oddly moving (trust me) Ike, etc. Faulkner has been accused of exploiting his poor whites in this novel, but I think his surprisingly sympathetic treatment of Mink in the trilogy counters this charge pretty well.

I've read everything Faulkner's ever written at least once (two to four times, for his major works), and this is my favorite. If you think Anse is funny in As I Lay Dying, or Virgil and Fonzio in Sanctuary, you'd probably really enjoy this book. It's the only time you'll ever hear a teenage girl rebuff her schoolteacher's inappropriate sexual advance with the command, "Stop pawing me. You old headless horseman Ichabod Crane." Priceless.
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More About the Author

Born in 1897 in New Albany, Mississippi, William Faulkner was the son of a family proud of their prominent role in the history of the south. He grew up in Oxford, Mississippi, and left high school at fifteen to work in his grandfather's bank.

Rejected by the US military in 1915, he joined the Canadian flyers with the RAF, but was still in training when the war ended. Returning home, he studied at the University of Mississippi and visited Europe briefly in 1925.

His first poem was published in The New Republic in 1919. His first book of verse and early novels followed, but his major work began with the publication of The Sound and the Fury in 1929. As I Lay Dying (1930), Sanctuary (1931), Light in August (1932), Absalom, Absalom! (1936) and The Wild Palms (1939) are the key works of his great creative period leading up to Intruder in the Dust (1948). During the 1930s, he worked in Hollywood on film scripts, notably The Blue Lamp, co-written with Raymond Chandler.

William Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949 and the Pulitzer Prize for The Reivers just before his death in July 1962.

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