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Absalom, Absalom! The Corrected Text Paperback – International Edition, January 30, 1991
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“For range of effect, philosophical weight, originality of style, variety of characterization, humor, and tragic intensity, [Faulkner’s works] are without equal in our time and country.” —Robert Penn Warren
“He is the greatest artist the South has produced. . . . Indeed, through his many novels and short stories, Faulkner fights out the moral problem which was repressed after the nineteenth century [yet] for all his concern with the South, Faulkner was actually seeking out the nature of man. Thus we must turn to him for that continuity of moral purpose which made for greatness of our classics.” —Ralph Ellison
From the Inside Flap
The story of Thomas Sutpen, an enigmatic stranger who came to Jefferson in the early 1830s to wrest his mansion out of the muddy bottoms of the north Mississippi wilderness. He was a man, Faulkner said, "who wanted sons and the sons destroyed him."
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I have located several different lists of so called "greatest novels". I have been trying to read a great many of these novels. Mr. Faulkner in general, and Absalom, Absalom in particular appear on numerous lists. I can tell this is great writing. However, I have not enjoyed this book. It is a difficult reading experience. I tend to have simple taste in all aspects of my life and perhaps this is simply too elaborate for me.
Mr. Faulkner wrote some early novels that seem to be largely forgotten. The first I know of is "Soldier's Pay". I read that and liked it very much. But it was definitely not "high literature" compared to his later work. I have not read his second novel, "Mosquitoes". I now intend to read that novel and see how it compares with Soldier's Pay and his later works. Thank You...
What I love about the novel are Faulkner's picture of the south. His turns of phrase, his command of language, is stunning. He is at his best when he is describing the air on a September evening, the wood on an unpainted house or the cotton dress on a poor woman. The best thing about this novel is the way he unfolds the story step by step, non-chronologically, and with great reluctance. This story is true because it is about the way we recreate the past based on the fragments of truth we have. It is about the way we assume, guess and remake the events of the past. In this sense Faulkner's stream of consciousness language is true -- the back and forth is the way people think, especially about significant past events when they do not know the whole story. In other words, every time we think about the past.
But no one talks like the people in Absalom, Absalom! talk. And everyone in the novel talks this way. People think this way but they do not converse this way. It is a small weakness, and a charming weakness in a masterful work of literature.
However, the ability to simply spend large chunks of time submersing myself into the flow of Faulkner's prose gave me the fullest experience of his language, of the rhythm of the story and the lives it represents. Sitting on the beach under the umbrella and listening to the waves, I lost myself in another world.
Haunting, daunting, and lyrical, this is best read when you have enough time to read for long stretches, enjoying Faulkner like slow-sipping whiskey.