It’s time once again for another update in my Year of Living (Actually Reading) Fictionally. The previous book covered in this series was Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club. I decided to pivot in another direction with my next selection: the great William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. Most of you are probably aware of this incredibly difficult novel’s literary significance in the American landscape; as another author I had embarrassingly managed not to read until now I felt it was my duty to take on what is considered his greatest achievement.
And what an achievement! While this book was staggeringly obtuse to puzzle through at times (especially the first two sections) it was without a doubt one of the greatest books I have ever read and clearly established Faulkner’s legacy alongside other great American writers such as Fitzgerald and Hemingway. I’m not going to spend much time on the plot of the novel, parts of which if I’m being honest flew way over my head and will require a second, more in-depth read at some later part of my life. It centers around a traditional southern family during the first decades of the 20th century and how each member copes with their siblings’ perceived faults and the tarnished reputation the (once respectable) Compson name. What I really want to do is draw out some of the massive literary lessons that can be interpreted from this work. More so than any other book I’ve included on this list, however, is the fact that each reader can perceive their own conclusions about the characters and life itself from these pages, and so I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who is looking to delve into a complete work of art. Here are some of my takeaways:
To be honest, these three lessons are just barely scratching the surface of what this book can teach readers. The only way to truly understand and grapple with it is to sit down and read it, and see how it connects to your own life. I will add the caveat that Faulkner, like Twain before him, did not shy away from using the language of his day to provide realism, which sadly does include a huge amount of racial animosity. Some readers may be downright turned off by how the black characters’ dialog is written in an extremely phonetic style, especially given our own present age of racial distrust. Even so, I still would recommend this book as it is an unflinching gaze into a disturbing period in our country’s history. And I cannot state enough what an incredibly rewarding experience reading this book can be for any reader.
Next up I am heading in an altogether different direction, tackling a book that was first recommended to me by my father-in-law: Exodus by Leon Uris. Stay tuned for the next update in my year of fiction!
John Abraham-Watne is an author and freelance journalist located in the Twin Cities, where he lives with his wife Mary and their two cats. This blog is his attempt to catalog all the events that culminate a local writer's life.