My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It took me a good long while, but I finally finished a book by William Faulkner. I’d read a few pages from The Sound and the Fury a few decades ago, gave up, and avoided him like pellagra ever since. It took me almost half a year to finish Absalom, Absalom! but mainly that’s because I was reading with a support group that only met once a month.
Consider this description of language buried in the middle of Chapter VII:
that meager and fragile thread… by which the little surface corners and edges of men’s secret and solitary lives may be joined for an instant now and then before sinking back into the darkness where the spirit cried for the first time and was not heard and will cry for the last time and not be heard then either
Grim, eh? Now imagine a cast of characters pacing back and forth inside of this thing called language like animals in their cages. That’s how this narrative struck me.
It’s a dark and difficult book to be sure. In fact I read this for a group called “The Difficult Book Club.” One has to figure out how to read it. I recommend a slow but steady pace. This prose can’t be rushed; but if left too long, one loses the thread. When in doubt, try reading a passage aloud. It’s like poetry. It should not be a chore, though it can easily become one. Find the pleasure. Insist upon it.
Ultimately the book gives up its secrets in a most rewarding fashion. Upon finishing I turned back to Chapter I and it read like a completely different book. The words had not changed, only I had. What had previously seemed incomprehensible now made perfect sense. Moreover, I felt some of the mysteries of the Deep South had been illuminated, and that I now have a better and deeper understanding of this place where I live but was neither born nor bred.
Highly recommended, but not for everyone.