Sunday, December 14, 2014

BACK TO THE CLASSICS CHALLENGE REVIEW: The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

My own expectations for finishing the Back-to-the-Classics Challenge this year were not very high. I came into December with two optional books still to go. I wanted to read Howards End, particularly after reading Vanessa and her Sister, so that got done, but the last book on the list was left to last for a reason. I’ve never read anything by William Faulkner. He’s one of those authors I’ve always felt that I should read, but never really had a great desire to read.


The Sound and the Fury was my choice for an American Classic. Since I was so close to finishing the challenge, I pulled the book from its dusty spot on the shelf and got started.


For anyone who has read it, you must remember how difficult it is to get through those first 90 or so pages written in Benji/Maury’s head. What on earth is going on? It becomes relatively clear that the narrator is a thirty-three year-old man, mentally handicapped, who is being cared for by a collection of siblings and black household servants somewhere deep in the south. But time is not linear for Benji. Although it becomes more or less clear who some of the characters are, others remain obscure. And the significance of events, if any, has to await further reading.


Other chapters take place at different times in the heads of Benjamin/Maurice’s brothers. The relationships between the characters start to make sense. And it becomes possible to piece together what happened to this rather pathetic family.


There are occasional spots where the book starts to flow and there is some semblance of a narrative where I found myself being pulled in, but those coherent flashes were brief and the chaos took over again. Eventually, the book arrives at its end. It’s surprising to realize how much of a story emerged from the scrambled fragments of writing. I did end up with a sense of the tragically fractured family. I discovered I liked or pitied certain characters and there were other characters I couldn’t stand.


However, even though I ended up with an appreciation for the book, it wasn’t one that I enjoyed as I was reading it. I might enjoy it more if I were to read it a second time, but I don’t think I’m destined to become a Faulkner fan, so I’m not willing to invest the time.


And that’s it for this year’s Classics Challenge. (I’m also counting this one towards the TBR-pile challenge.) I’ll post my wrap-up soon!