ikstim

because it sounds like some vague literary term, or a pernicious disease

Told by an Idiot, Full of Sound and Fury

with 3 comments

Reading William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury, is like driving with my octogenarian grandmother. Dreadfully slow, confounding, and you’re never quite sure if you are going to make it out alive. What makes it worth it though is, occasionally the sweet lady looks over and says something that is so inspiring, or so beautiful that you buckle your seat belt, and hold white knuckled to the door handle.

A stream of consciousness tale told in four parts, and published originally in 1929, it appears on several lists as one of the best books of all time. The story also managed to play a role in Faulkner’s Noble Peace Prize in literature, which he was awarded in 1949.

The Sound and The Fury is a difficult story to provide an effective synopsis to, because for the most part, its not easily readable, nor, at times, does it make much sense. For the sake of brevity, I am going to break it down into it’s four parts, and attempt to give some sense of what the hell was going on in there. If The Sound and The Fury is your most favouritist book ever, and you find my synopsis overly simplified or missing the point altogether, bear with me and comfort yourself with the knowledge that MY most favouritist book is Go Dog Go.

Part One.

Narrated by Benjy Compson. His narration shifts over a twenty year span.

Caddy smelled like trees until she knocked boots with some guy from town and now she doesn’t smell like trees anymore.

Caddy, by the by, is the main figure in the story or more correctly, the idea of Caddy is the main figure in the story.  She is never met on her own, and is a different person in the eyes of each of the narrators.  She is only shown through the biases of each of her brothers, and ultimately does not exisit as a person, only as an individual’s perception of a person.

Part Two.

Narrated By Quentin Compson.

My sister Caddy is a whore, and I am going to toss myself into the river, from a height, weighted down by irons because of it.

Part Three.

Narrated by Jason Compson.

Money.Money.Money.Money.Money.I Hate Caddy, and myself, but mostly Caddy.Money.Money.Money.

Part Four.

The only chapter that makes any sense as Faulkner uses a more traditional writing style. The focus is the matriarch of the Compson’s servants, Dilsey . Dilsey and her family are used to provide a narrative comparison against the declining Compson family. I didn’t really figure out the story until the last few paragraphs, which is maybe what was intended all along. It illustrates the decay of the wealthy Southern family, and the idiocy that each of the brothers display in turn – Benjy’s mental retardation, Quentin’s declining mental health and obsession with his sister’s sexuality, and Jason’s obsession with wealth (Jason is also really mean).

/synopsis

Faulkner had originally intended to have the story printed with different coloured inks to represent the shifts in time and perspective, but used italics instead. Then he broke his own rules, and stopped using punctuation.

While the story, from what I could glean in the nearly six (six!) weeks it took me to read The Sound and The Fury, is a tragic tale of the downfall of a prominent Southern American family after the Civil War. The type of story, that being full of sadness and melancholy self reflection is right up my alley, but it’s delivery made it nearly incomprehensable. Also, Faulkner was mostly drunk while he wrote it, I tried being mostly drunk while I read it. It didn’t help.

All of that being said. I TOTALLY understand why people will tell you this is their favourite book, or will sing it’s praises as one of the most important pieces of American Literature Ever! Getting through this book is like winning the blue ribbon at a hotdog eating contest. You finish, you feel like you have really accomplished something, but you feel bloated with vague twinges of shame – mostly because you don’t really understand why you ate all those hotdogs in the first place.

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3 Responses

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  1. In psychology, the theory of cognitive dissonance predicts that people will like things more if they put a lot of work into doing them (because it’s uncomfortable to know they wasted effort on something that sucked). Maybe Faulkner owes all his success to this cheap psychological trick.

    Phronk

    February 28, 2010 at 12:10 pm

  2. I hate Caddy, and hotdogs, but mostly Caddy.

    chelch

    March 2, 2010 at 10:04 pm

  3. @Phronk’s point is valid. I might be a jerk but it seems to me a lot of things people consider works of art are just drunken orgies of mental diarrhea spewed out into their chosen medium. Call me crazy but that just looks like shit to me.

    Oathbreaker

    April 23, 2010 at 11:35 am


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