Monday, November 10, 2008

Review: The Sound and the Fury

I'd not read any Faulkner prior to picking up The Sound and the Fury, and I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive about this book. But I was also looking forward to getting some Faulkner under my belt, and this was my book group's selection, so I had added incentive. The metanarrative of this book is the decline of an old southern family in a tale told by three brothers: one disabled, one suicidal, one horrible. All of the brothers are obsessed with their sister Caddy, and their three narratives explain their lives through their thoughts of and interactions with their sister. Caddy's own decline, in the form of an affair and resulting pregnancy, fundamentally shapes the life of all the family members. Each member of the Compson household is afflicted in one way or another, and these afflictions collectively bring the family into a downward tailspin. I enjoyed reading this book, though it's difficult for me to explain exactly what makes it a classic. It might be the beautiful prose, it might be the deep complexity of the story, it might be the investment the reader must make in getting through it. While I'm certainly aware of Faulkner's importance to the modernist movement and his place in the literary canon, it's something else that makes this classic literature for me. I did think that Faulkner's evocation of the New South was masterful, and for those who've not studied the history of the New South, this is an excellent snapshot. By the time I'd reached the final section of the book I wanted to devour it all in one sitting. I'll be exploring more of Faulkner's canon in the years to come.

William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury (Vintage, 1991) ISBN: 0679732241


Anonymous said...

I cannot say that I have ever read Faulkner though his writing is greatly acclaimed. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Jeane said...

I appreciate your review as I have always struggled to read Faulkner. In fact, I don't think I've made it through a single one yet. The narrative by the disabled brother in this one was so confusing to me I gave up too soon.

Nicole said...

Great review. I read a few of the Faulkner books and I remember reading this one but a lot of it escapes me now, even after reading what you wrote. I remember Light In August being way more accessible that Sound and the Fury. I still have his books in my shelf to re-visit one of these days.