Faulkner is not for everyone, and this book is exhibit number one. I read half of it a year ago before going back and starting over, determined to finish it. I am certainly glad I did, and I will say without doubt I will read it several more times in my life, for this book is at the same time one of the most difficult I’ve ever read, and one of the most rewarding.
First, the cons: vocabulary that continually drives you to a dictionary; long, run-on sentences, with digression piled on top of digression, parenthesis within parenthesis within parenthesis; multiple telling of the same story. The reading is not easy, in other words.
But the pros: Faulkner is a master of “showing, not telling.” He writes poetry without line breaks. For example:
** “a creature cloistered now by deliberate choice and still in the throes of enforced apprenticeship to, rather than voluntary or even acquiescent participation in, breathing”
** “battles lost not alone because of superior numbers and failing ammunition and stores, but because of generals who should not have been generals, who were generals not through training in contemporary methods or aptitude for learning them, but by the divine right to say ‘Go there’ conferred upon them by an absolute caste system.”
** “and maybe they never had time to talk about wounds and besides to talk about wounds in the Confederate army in 1865 would be like coal miners talking about soot.”
... years ago that I'll pick up and read from time to time. Every time I read one of them, I pick out little ... 've been told "just give five minutes of your time to read a book and before you know it, it " ll ... as Super Street, Import Tuner, Maxim, or even Time, I can read it from front to back and do it all ... I remember my mom telling me that I would read cereal boxes for fun while eating breakfast when I ...
From these three examples alone, one can see that it’s unfair to say that Faulkner’s book is one run-on sentence without any differentiation in style or voice. Instead, they show a mastery of language, which Faulkner admittedly gets a little carried away with from time to time, but generally uses much like we use our lungs – without seeming to think about it.
What is most striking about the book is the similarity it has to the human experience. Walter Allen said this is the book in which Faulkner “most profoundly and completely says what he has to say about . . . the human condition.” And what is that? That humans are weak and prone to lying, and more dangerously, prone to believing lies that are more comfortable than the truth. When we finish the book, we’re still not sure about the details of the story. We don’t know who twisted what in his/her narrative, and because the story is told from several points of view, we get conflicting interpretations from the characters about the meaning and cause of certain events. But as in real life, there’s no omnipotent interpreter to sort everything out. Almost . . .
“AA” is particularly engrossing in the final half. Just when you think you pretty much know Sutpen’s story, Faulkner reveals yet another detail — coincidence turns out to be anything but, ignornance is shown to be willful, and many other facets which can only be called “plot twists” fall into place in the final 100 pages, and though the prose is anything but easy, it’s difficult to put the book down then.
If you’re not into “academic” books, stay away. If you’re interested just in “a good yarn,” steer clear. If you want to see an impressive effort at capturing in writing the frustrating experience of being a fallible, limited human, give it a read.