The goal with these Throwback Thursday blogs, to this point, has been to reminisce about books I’ve loved through the years. I’ve thrown in everything from pretty mainstream fiction to classic. But, all the books have had one thing in common: I liked them. Or rather loved them.
Well, today brings something a little different: a book that I read, because I was required to, and thoroughly hated. We all have these books and, as art is subjective, some may love the book I’m about to write about. Others may be in the same boat with me.
Let’s talk about “The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner. I know this is classic Southern literature. I know it’s on those “100 best” lists. I know all of that and I really tried to like it, but I just couldn’t.
The assignment to read this Faulkner tale came in my American Lit class in college. There is some Southern lit I do like. Flannery O’Connor is one example. I had high hopes for this book, because the very title comes from my favorite Shakespeare play “Macbeth.” And not just from the play, but from Macbeth’s famous soliloquy that gives me chills every time I read it!
“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Chills I tell you! And the key to why I dislike “The Sound and the Fury” is right there in those lines. It is a tale told by idiots. I could just never care about Faulkner’s characters. The only one who really captured me was Benjy Compson and this was because the poor child was mentally challenged and his family was horrid. But he was about the only one.
The treatment of Caddy Compson in this work also bothered me. She was a woman trying to make her way in a decaying society—post-Civil War South. Part of my problems with this book probably stem from my own frustrations with that society. However, I also took issue with Faulkner’s never really giving her a voice of her own, defining her by her male family. And, well, that was probably the reality for many women.
When Quentin commits suicide I just threw the book down and wondered if I could fudge on my exam without reading the rest. I was so frustrated with him that he took the easy way out and didn’t stick around to protect Caddy or Benjy.
What I should really do is try reading it now that I’m more than 10 years older. The characters and work may strike me differently than they did then.
Let’s leave the characters for just a minute and deal with the way Faulkner told this tale though. There were sentences that lasted for what felt like a page. The book moved from present to past and back in a way that left me reeling. I’d just read “The Sun Also Rises” by Hemingway when I read Faulkner’s work. I’m just not a long, convoluted sentence kind of person. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
And this is the lesson I left “The Sound and the Fury” with. Give me simple, straightforward writing. That is also how I prefer to write.
I’m sure there are many out there who love this classic piece of literature. I’m actually very curious about that. Please comment and tell me your thoughts on this book.