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The Sound and the Fury: The Corrected Text Paperback – January 30, 1991
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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The ostensible subject of The Sound and the Fury is the dissolution of the Compsons, one of those august old Mississippi families that fell on hard times and wild eccentricity after the Civil War. But in fact what William Faulkner is really after in his legendary novel is the kaleidoscope of consciousness--the overwrought mind caught in the act of thought. His rich, dark, scandal-ridden story of squandered fortune, incest (in thought if not in deed), madness, congenital brain damage, theft, illegitimacy, and stoic endurance is told in the interior voices of three Compson brothers: first Benjy, the "idiot" man-child who blurs together three decades of inchoate sensations as he stalks the fringes of the family's former pasture; next Quentin, torturing himself brilliantly, obsessively over Caddy's lost virginity and his own failure to recover the family's honor as he wanders around the seedy fringes of Boston; and finally Jason, heartless, shrewd, sneaking, nursing a perpetual sense of injury and outrage against his outrageous family.
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
“I am in awe of Faulkner’s Benjy, James’s Maisie, Flaubert’s Emma, Melville’s Pip, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein—each of us can extend the list. . . . I am interested in what prompts and makes possible this process of entering what one is estranged from.” —Toni Morrison
“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
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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.
The language is challenging, as Faulkner wrote in dialect and I found myself hearing the dialogue in my head. Once I let go of plot and setting, and allowed myself to be immersed in the characters, I started to enjoy reading this book. This is certainly not a beach novel or a page turner, but rather a dismal sort of dirge for a grand old Southern family in decline, as illustrated by four days, in the lives of two generations. I would recommend this book for anyone that is looking for an experience that is worth the effort it takes to read a piece of American literature, that does not quite fit into any genre.
Truly amazing and I’m not sure where to begin, not wanting to give spoilers. Set in Jefferson, Mississippi, early 20th Century. The novel centers on the Compson family, former Southern aristocrats who are struggling to deal with the dissolution of their family and its reputation.
It’s mostly written using stream of consciousness, run amok. So of course I loved it. It was a confusing ride at first, until everything fell into place as I read the longest sentence I think I’ve ever encountered, and I felt like a balloon popped in my head! It is a really great novel, and I’ve decided I must read all that Faulkner wrote. Wow.
There are two turning points: 1st the one that the reader passes when she or he decides to continue the read despite the instinct to quit, and the 2nd (for me about halfway through the book) when there is the realization of the utter brilliance of the author for his bold method and subtle presentation and his intricate linking of the characters.
It is about good and selfish, and honest and deceitful, and tradition and loyalty in Faulkner’s South back in the 1920’s. And if that is a very odd description of a “plot” - and it is - it is because traditional plot and story-line are very unorthodox in this brilliant novel. And don't expect Faulkner to 'hand it to' you in the closing pages - pay attention on every page... and expect to have to reread.