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The Sound and the Fury: The Corrected Text Paperback – October 1, 1990
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If Benjy's section is the most daringly experimental, Jason's is the most harrowing. "Once a bitch always a bitch, what I say," he begins, lacing into Caddy's illegitimate daughter, and then proceeds to hurl mud at blacks, Jews, his sacred Compson ancestors, his glamorous, promiscuous sister, his doomed brother Quentin, his ailing mother, and the long-suffering black servant Dilsey who holds the family together by sheer force of character.
Notoriously "difficult," The Sound and the Fury is actually one of Faulkner's more accessible works once you get past the abrupt, unannounced time shifts--and certainly the most powerful emotionally. Everything is here: the complex equilibrium of pre-civil rights race relations; the conflict between Yankee capitalism and Southern agrarian values; a meditation on time, consciousness, and Western philosophy. And all of it is rendered in prose so gorgeous it can take your breath away. Here, for instance, Quentin recalls an autumnal encounter back home with the old black possum hunter Uncle Louis:
And we'd sit in the dry leaves that whispered a little with the slow respiration of our waiting and with the slow breathing of the earth and the windless October, the rank smell of the lantern fouling the brittle air, listening to the dogs and to the echo of Louis' voice dying away. He never raised it, yet on a still night we have heard it from our front porch. When he called the dogs in he sounded just like the horn he carried slung on his shoulder and never used, but clearer, mellower, as though his voice were a part of darkness and silence, coiling out of it, coiling into it again. WhoOoooo. WhoOoooo. WhoOooooooooooooooo.What Faulkner has created is a modernist epic in which characters assume the stature of gods and the primal family events resonate like myths. It is The Sound and the Fury that secures his place in what Edmund Wilson called "the full-dressed post-Flaubert group of Conrad, Joyce, and Proust." --David Laskin
“No man ever put more of his heart and soul into the written word than did William Faulkner. If you want to know all you can about that heart and soul, the fiction where he put it is still right there.” —Eudora Welty
- Publisher : Vintage; 1st edition (October 1, 1990)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 326 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0679732241
- ISBN-13 : 978-0679732242
- Lexile measure : 800L
- Item Weight : 9.6 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #18,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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I never thought I could read it; I tried 30 years ago, 19 years ago, 10 years after that, before I finally finished it a couple of years ago. When I picked it up, I concluded quickly that Faulkner must be a sadist to write anything like the first 10 pages. I read it twice and I was no better off the second time as I was the first go-round. I had absolutely no clue what the heck was going on, the sentences were disjunctive, the thoughts scrambled, the characters were dropping in then disappearing, it seemed to change time frames without any recognizable order so I had no sense of time and, ultimately, I had forgotten why it was, exactly, that I had bought the damned thing in the first place!
Oh yeah, I told myself. You want to read Mr. Mint Juleps from that Rowan Oak plantation home up in Oxford. You believe that by doing that you are proving maybe once and for all time that you too can escape the past of this State in which you were raised and of these ghosts that you find despicable, this hate you had no part of, these white sheets, fulgent from the flames above them but burned by the evil beneath, these ignorant men who were passed down hatred as heirlooms to hand down to their sons and their daughters. You think if you can make it through this man's novels it will show that you are more intelligent than what people from afar believe you to be, that you are not like the rednecks you see every day but burst from within to bound over, that you are not like your mother's father who you worshiped, a business man and deacon in the town's largest Southern Baptist church, who you remember using the N word once as you sat beside him at 7 as he was driving from downtown Natchez (the home of my forefathers), a town on the mighty Mississippi River filled with beautiful antebellum plantation homes and scattered with remnants of slavery and a segregated past before you were born, the town in which your mother is now buried 10 feet from her father. And your mother, God bless her, along with your father, raised you not to hate, nor to judge, and for that you believe you have been blessed.
After she was buried, you finally got the gumption to make it all the way through this knotty novel by that iconic author from the northern corner of your home state of Mississippi. It took a paperback, an electronic companion guide and an audible version to make it through and understand that you needed to read this book, that it was crucial as one more molting of the skin of your past, one more step away from the sins of the fathers, one further step away from that past for my children and hopefully their children.
I did it.
Top reviews from other countries
Reading this novel, I felt stupid and angry at the same time. I imagined Faulkner sitting there, all those years ago, thinking with awesome prescience that in ninety years’ time some poor Scottish guy would be sitting there trying to take sense of his scribblings. I pictured his thoughts: ‘How can I make this as unintelligible as possible for the poor fellow? I know, I’ll write most of it in the obscure and impenetrable dialect of the Deep Southern United States.’ Then, realising that Hollywood might make this patois too accessible in the future, he decided to also employ the ‘stream of consciousness’ method of narration: random thoughts thrown on to the paper in any order. But, thinking perhaps back to Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ and forward to Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’, he decided even this wasn’t enough to ensure the obscurity of his meaning. So he added the ‘coup de grace’, the frequent and unannounced movements in time, often in the middle of sentences. Job Done! Try and make sense of that, old boy! I couldn’t.
As much as I could tell, it’s a sad story of a family on whom fortune has decided to frown. A hypochondriac mother; an alcoholic father, a severely mentally retarded son; another son for whom the family jewels were sold to pay for a Harvard education, for which he thanked his parents by committing suicide before even finishing college; a promiscuous daughter, rejected by her husband for bearing a child by another man; the resulting granddaughter following in the footsteps of her mother; another son, Jason, a habitual and resentful loser being taken to the cleaners by stockbrokers and his niece. Three generations in dire need of some ‘lucky white heather’, as we say in Scotland.
It’s not as if Faulkner is an untalented writer. His depiction of the Southern USA speech patterns is masterly. His ability to create characters using only what they say is outstanding. The mother’s moral blackmail with her repeated insistence that she wouldn’t be a trouble to them for much longer; Mrs Bland, the doting mother of a spoilt college brat; the son Jason’s hatred for the sister and niece who robbed him of his ‘chance’: all brilliant portrayals. And when he abandons pretentious literary tricks towards the end of the book, it all comes together really nicely into something quite engrossing and readable. But too late, too late!
So there it is. Great literature it must be (Faulkner won every major literary prize). But readers, be warned, it’s a challenge. This is a book to be read for academic enlightenment rather than instant gratification
Reviewed by James Gault, author of Best Intelligence The Redemption of Anna Petrovna and Teaching Tania Ogg
The first two narratives are the most difficult to read - the second in particular - as they employ stream-of-consciousness (a technique I hate) and frequently jump around in time and leave sentences unfinished. Many of the characters' speech is written to reflect their southern American accents which adds another barrier to easy understanding. There is no explanation for who the characters are and whilst I gradually managed to work out a thing or two, I remained puzzled on much and it's hard to enjoy a book when you can't work out what's supposed to be going on.
The third narrative is a more straightforwards first person on, and the final section is in the third person and focusses on the family's cook as well as tying up the main 'storylines' such as they are. Whilst these sections are more readable that's only in relative terms to the first sections.
The characters are all horrible, apart from the mentally disabled Benjy (the point of view character for the first section) and the much put upon cook Dilsey. I loathed the characters and disliked the way the book was written, and as for plot, there's little of it. I can appreciate the cleverness of the way it's written, but that isn't enough to have made me enjoy it. I want to be entertained when I read, not feel like I'm sitting an English literature exam.
It gets two stars for being clever and despite the fact I hate many of the literary techniques in it and the characters, I did manage to keep reading to the end and even have a degree of interest in the outcome. Which must say something for the novel because really on paper it would be the epitome of things I hate in a story. I found the easiest way to read the streams of consciousness - and the whole book really - is to skim it. Your eyes will catch naturally on the names and when something interesting happens. In this way I was able to grasp the story without having to suffer through every word (and I probably understood it better than if I'd tried to read it that way). I know I got all the key points because I read a synopsis afterwards to check. So if you want or are obliged to read this story, I would suggest that as technique for getting through it.