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The Hamlet Paperback – October 29, 1991
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I agree that the writing is sometimes self-indulgent and is tedious to read, but no writer that I know of can evoke the same kind of visceral response for a distant time and place... Read morePublished 19 days ago by K.S.Ziegler
A masterpiece of storytelling that couples humor with violence, greed with ambition, and an appreciation of the landscape of the South as a presence against which Man is a puny... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Bis Fan
One of my favorite books. Funny, touching, and gothic in turns, tells the story of the rise of the Snopes clan in Faulkner's fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, around the... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Mark Smallwood
The preponderance of William Faulkner's stories of his mythical Yoknapatawpha County concern the fallen Southern aristocracy and read like Greek tragedies; I can enjoy but not... Read morePublished 19 months ago by gammyraye
This book is more accessible for the average reader than Faulkner's, The Sound And The Fury- by which I mean that after a few pages you can figure out what is going on, even if you... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Michael Lewyn
If you consider yourself a wordsmith, please enter this Faulkner world to find a bit of humbling. For sheer artistry, The Hamlet is the finest work I have read. Read morePublished on May 20, 2014 by Kevin Osborne
"There's some things even a Snopes won't do. I don't know exactly what they are, but they's some somewhere."
(V.K. Read more