Friday, November 21, 2008

Absalom, Absalom!

I had the idea years ago that I should read more Faulkner, for my own edification if nothing else. "A Rose for Emily" is one of my favorite short stories, and you can pick up Faulkner novels and thumb through them and find brilliant passages, imagery that literally makes things real. 

I had trouble with Absalom, Absalom!, though.  Couldn't get through it in 1984 when I was just out of college and picked it up on vacation from my first job. I put it down shortly afterwards.

I'm older and wiser now, and recently, for school, I had to read it. Had to i.e. a course requirement. 

No way out. Useless to struggle.

OK, I possibly could have begged my advisor, but "had to" offered a nice push, and that's a good thing.

Masterpiece is the right term for Absalom, Absalom!, and while it's what might be called inaccessible, it's worth the effort to penetrate the long, winding sentences of Miss Rosa Coldfield, and to follow the exploits of Thomas Sutpen and his establishment of his plantation empire in Yoknapatawpha County, MS and the aftermath of his attempts to further his design.

His story is told not just by Rosa, his sister-in-law, who's sharing with 2o-year-old Quentin Compson, who gets a little further explanation of events from his father and finally re-examines events told in the first two thirds of the book for his friend at Harvard.

In the latter portion, events that we've already witnessed are illuminated, as if Poirot were explaining what was early seen but not understood, and it all transpires with a dark, Southern Gothic flavor that, if not chilling, is still disturbing in the way the best non-supernatural horror manages to be.

I recommend everyone pursue a degree that requires the reading of Absalom, Absalom!, or, if you're better disciplined than me, just pick it up and read.

5 comments:

rolandmann said...

I, too, had to struggle through Absolom, Absolom. I've always thought, in general, that Faulkner was a difficult read.
However, when we moved to Oxford recently, I decided if I was going to "claim" to be a civil war fiction voice, then I'd better read Faulkner's civil war work. So, I read THE UNVANQUISHED and really really liked it. It may be as you say, though...I'm older and wiser now. But I'd recommend you read THE UNVANQUISHED...AFTER you finished your required reading, thta is! :)

Charles Gramlich said...

I've never read it. I did like his short stories, but trying to read "The Sound and the Fury" broke me of any interest in Faulkner. It'll probably be a cold day in hell before I read another of his novels. Even with your recommendation. I'm a Hemingway/Steinbeck sort of fellow.

Sidney said...

I've got "The Sound and the Fury" which includes some of the same characters from "Absalom." I don't own "The Unvanquished" but it sounds interesting. I may get around to both, or neither. Interesting to hear "Sound and Fury" is a challenge to get into as well.

Steve Malley said...

All right, sold.

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