04 February 2013

In Which I Steal Someone Else's Book Review

I read a lot of books, but I don't write a lot of book reviews. Turns out, there's a reason for that: someone else has probably already written everything I could think to say and more. That was the case with William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!, which I finished this weekend and randomly, uncharacteristically read reviews for afterwards. This Lucas fellow on Goodreads sums up the experience perfectly: (yours truly in italics)

"I was nearly stammering when I finished it. It is a text so thick, so full of beauty that to describe it at all is daunting. yes, Lucas, me too, man.


This narrative is relentless, it is a constantly roiling spiral, one that keeps picking up and dropping off details and elements as it grows wider. There is a submission to the narrative that must occur, similar, but much more difficult, to the submission required to get through the opening 50-60 pages of As I Lay Dying, except that this one takes about 200 pages to settle in fully, (um, yes) and instead of confusion, every moment of the reading is stunning and engaging up until that point, then after crossing into the rhythm and cadence and gaining fuller comprehension you are suddenly frightfully stuck with Quentin in the devastating heart of the South and Sutpen and Quentin and Caddy and the war and so many other pieces of this mosaic, this vast terrible mosaic Faulkner is finally able to fully articulate. this is so true. I trudged through a good 2/3 of the book, kind of miserably, until the momentum picked up and I couldn't even put the thing down.

Yet, this is a love story, as Salinger wrote in Franny and Zooey "pure and complicated" And in a sense I think that is the most important part, that these multi-page sentences, the spiraling plot, the description and re-description and re-description again of the very air surrounding the events of the story are the closest I have ever seen to being wholly purely, truly, complicated. It's as if his layering and re-layering and re-re-layering and his endlessly unfolding and stacking metaphors are the ONLY way for Quentin, and for us, the readers, to understand the South, and to understand Quentin's desperate self-loathing and destructiveness, and Caddy, and Henry and Bon and Judith and etc..."

So, yeah, I'm wishing on a wishing star that I could have written that. But I felt it, so that's kind of the next best thing, right? If you're interested in reading some Faulkner, I'd recommend starting with As I Lay Dying and reading it twice. Then, if you'd like, read The Sound and the Fury. And don't be ashamed to use Sparknotes, because sometimes that's the only way to grasp important plot points you're obviously missing when your teacher brings them up during your one-on-one term paper interview...

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