Friday Frippery! Interim Book Report…

absalom absalomSo,


she (Miss Rosa Coldfield) rattles on circuitously, circling round and round, in a circle; and yet, not round always, but in memory, sometimes backward, before the enemy thrashed her father and destroyed the Old South, destroying it in a destructive manner, while he watched the dust motes and wondered why she repeated herself endlessly without ever actually saying anything to the point, endlessly repeating the story of her sister, long dead, and Sutpen, repeatedly telling him (Quentin) about his (Sutpen’s) beard that was the only thing that differentiated him from the wild black men he brought with him when he came to destroy the honour of his or possibly her family, or possibly their families, or possibly not, for as she would undoubtedly come to say “It is important that this story never dies, so I’m going to reveal it to you in a code so obscure it will take, not just the rest of your life, but the lives of many academics, paid for by the taxes not just of ourselves but of those who conquered us and tamed the wild men, destroying something precious but perhaps a little immoral along the way, for some strange people in the North, you know, think that to chain wild men to a post is nearly as wicked as to beat horses for no reason other than to show how wicked the beater is, to decipher it or at least to convince themselves that they had deciphered it because otherwise would be to admit that yet again the Nobel Prize had been given to someone who fundamentally can’t write intelligibly, though of course in the wondrous worlds of academe and literary prizes intelligibility ranks low on the list of things a writer should achieve, which is not how it was…” and she broke off as her voice retreated not into silence exactly, but into silence nevertheless, a silence forced upon her and all her race by the men who conquered her or them or him and his family and their honour, and he said “Yessum” which was, one has to admit, as good an answer as any from one of the broken ghosts that inhabit this broken land, broken by conquerors who destroyed the honour of those whose only fault, if indeed fault it were, and who is to decide that question is still to be decided, was to tie wild men to posts and impregnate wild women, hardly a fault at all; though some may say that then naming the offspring with silly names like Clytemnestra may have been the most wicked thing of all and may even have been some small justification for the destruction of these once proud people, now wandering ghost-like through the past and present…

William Faulkner

…with no calendar, dammit, to tell them where they might be supposed to be, which is to assume anyone cares, which brings me back to the point which I have unfortunately forgotten since my braincells began deteriorating at page 5 and the deterioration deteriorated so rapidly that by page 48 I had turned into a brainless mumbling mono-celled organism condemned to spend eternity going round in an endless circle of rambling, barely punctuated, incomprehensibly-structured prose, an endless circle of destruction, leaving me feeling like a ghost inhabiting a land which unfortunately the destroyers didn’t destroy thoroughly enough or they would have wiped out Miss Coldfield, Mr Compson, Mr Sutpen and all their pesky descendants and left Mr Faulkner with nothing to go round in endless circles about, so that when at some time in the future or perhaps the past FF asked for recommendations for the Great American Novel Quest, no-one, not one person, not even a ghost, would have suggested torturing herself half to death reading a pretentious, repetitive, repetitive book, which is to literature much as WWE is to sport, with its major claim to fame being that it contains the longest grammatically correct sentence in the English language, thus getting into the Guinness Book of Records, surely more illustrious than the broken Nobel, though that record doesn’t specify intelligible, nor does it take account of the fact that Michael Chabon created a much longer, better constructed, and rather beautiful one in Telegraph Avenue, thus making this work even more redundant than it once was, this being the problem with all records, for who now remembers who held the record for the fastest mile before Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mark, itself a record now broken, but one that was at least exciting at the time, which I suggest this one wasn’t; and if they did, if some ghost drifting in the motes of dust circling round the room of the woman who is doing a particularly bad Miss ‘Avisham impersonation, in her room where she lives with the blinds drawn, angsting about a 50-year-old jilting, had whispered “Read Absalom! Absalom!”, then FF would have known to say “No’m!” – but too late, alas, too late!

* * * * * *

I’m at page 72. 240 to go.


alphabetti help


72 thoughts on “Friday Frippery! Interim Book Report…

  1. 🙂 Give up! So this will not be the GAN, then/ Now there’s a surprise! It’s a long time since I read this, but I think I quite enjoyed it – but then, I may just have come out from under “Eng.Lit” – with horrors like Middlemarch and Clarissa!

    • I can’t give up in the middle of a paragraph though, so I’ll need to read at least the next 50 pages… 😉 Oh dear, I fear this is such an Eng. Lit. book – and we both know how will I got on with the English Department!

  2. This is absolutely brilliant, FictionFan!!! Bang on, and hysterically funny! Personally, I think the DNF pile is there for a reason…

    • Haha! Thanks, Margot! I had to get it out of my system! I can’t give up in the middle of a sentence though, so I’ll need to read at least the next 50 pages… 😉

  3. Oh. My. Golly. This brings back so many memories. I went to college in Faulkner-country, and only through MANY blessings was I able to avoid having to read him (and I’m an English major…you’d have thought they’d have insisted). Anyway, I think you’ve suffered enough. Lent is over, my dear friend, and tennis season is upon us. NO WAY should you suffer more of this drivel! Pat yourself on the back for giving it a good go, then move on.

    • Haha! I think you dodged a major bullet there! I thought Uni was cruel trying to make me read Melville, but I realise now how much worse things could have been! I suspect it won’t be too long before I throw this one at the wall… yay for tennis! I’ve never needed Rafa and chocolate quite so much… 😉

      • You’re a brave lady for even trying to wade through this beast! I’ve sampled several of his short stories, and that was more than enough to convince me to stay FAR away from him. He must have been an interesting guy in his day, but his writing style…ugh, can you imagine diagramming one of his sentences???

        • Honestly, it beats me why some of these authors have the reputation they do. There’s such a huge gulf between the stuff they try to persuade us at Uni is “good” and the stuff people actually enjoy reading – I reckon it’s time academics stopped trying to force the most pretentious stuff down our throats…

  4. You are uniquely wonderful. I’m relieved I was never the one who suggested you should read this. Stop reading it. Have some chocolate. Have a glass of wine. Go dancing. Make yourself a cheese sandwich. Find the alphabetti spaghetti letters which spell STOP. Desecrate the paper copy of the book if that is what you are reading. Sorry, that previous sentence was a little long. OR Locate copy on eReader. Click Delete item from device. Dance on a cheese sandwich. Pour glass of wine over chocolate. Contemplate all the many books you are longing to read. Pick one. Make a rude gesture to the shade of Faulkner’s book. Pour the wine and chocolate over the danced on cheese sandwich.

    Clean the floor. Settle down to new enjoyable book. OR:

    Start Ulysses.

    • Arrrrrrrrrrghhhhhhh! Not Ulysses! Never! Never, do you hear?!?!!!

      Haha! Thank you! Both for the compliment and for the concise sentence structure. The major problem is I’ll never be able to eat alphabetti spaghetti again without thinking of Faulkner – thank goodness they also make spaghetti hoops! Or I would be forced to wander, alive but ghostly, silent for ever and yet still speaking audibly, through the wasteland that was once my store cupboard, where lives a man with a beard…

      I’ll abandon it just as soon as I get to the end of the next paragraph…

      • Oh dear, that’s what they all say….I’ll give up (the addiction) tomorrow, after the next….Faulkner sentence I can see you grimly struggling through – it’s like those people who have to climb the Munros, or who start out on a modest little 5k park fun run and then sooner than you can blink are forcing themselves to Ultra Marathons, the greater the agony, the greater the thrill. I’m afraid, if you stick with Faulkner, it’s not going to be enough, and you will inexorably be lured in by Ulysses. And the only place to go after that will be Ulysses……..translated into Mandarin!

        • Haha! The thing is I’ve discovered it’s the ultimate cure for insomnia – every six pages or so (roughly half a sentence) I am overwhelmed with an urgent need to nap. They really ought to make it available on the NHS. But I really understand the attraction of stream of consciousness now – not for readers, but for writers. That must be the quickest I’ve ever written a blog post, and no need to polish or edit or worry about grammtical howlers – people just assume that any little inconsistencies are a) meant and b) deeply significant of… something. I reckon this could be the way to go for my first 1000-page 2-paragraph novel…

  5. Excellent advice above from Lady Fanciful. Dance on a cheese sandwich is my advice as well! Brilliant post – made me laugh out loud after a rather stressful afternoon.

  6. This is priceless! And then to end it with the picture of the alphaghetti…
    I don’t think I’ll be in too big of a hurry to pick up one of Faulkner’s books after this. 🙂

  7. Oh, FF! I cannot stop laughing! I am ROFLing and ROFLing. You are brilliant! This is one of my all-time favorite books, but perhaps it’s because I read it with one of those aforementioned (and frequently mentioned) academics. My teacher was a poet and a Faulkner *expert*, so my experience was definitely shaped by my guide. It took over my dreams, partially because the entire book has the quality of a dream/nightmare.The horror of entrenched prejudice that was (and in some parts, still is) the South was quite fascinating, how it destroyed families. How it pitted fathers against sons. That it was more acceptable to marry your sister than for a white person to marry someone who was 1/8th African American. That the old lady and the dust motes are all stand-ins for the old South, for antiquated bigotry. Quentin’s inability to deal with his ambivalence toward the South and his own heritage leads to further tragedy. I would not recommend that you read The Sound and the Fury. Perhaps you would like Faulkner’s short stories better. There are quite a few that do employ a significant amount of punctuation. I could recommend other Faulkner novels, but perhaps I should just side with those who are telling you to throw in the towel and head for higher ground…. 😀 You are such a good sport.

    • And the darkness of that stifling parlor, the hidden family secrets and those of the South that were never aired. Oh my, the memories come flooding back. Can you believe I read that book three times over the course of two weeks, as required for the class? Are you shuddering? Do you need to go lie down?

    • Hahaha! I’m so glad you found it funny! I was afraid you might never speak to me again… 😉

      The thing is that I do see everything you say about it – there is a good story in there, some of the imagery is great and so far at any rate it is insightful about the whole post-Civil War trauma of certain sections of the South. It’s just that the writing style is soooo awful! I genuinely believe that if a survey were done of all the people on Goodreads who’ve 5-starred it, 99.9% of them probably were ‘taught’ it rather than just picking it up and discovering it for themselves. There’s such a huge gulf between what academia thinks is good writing (the more difficult to decipher the better) and what most people look for in a book – clarity! Pah!

      But as I just commented to LF, I do see the attraction of writing this stuff, if not reading it. Took me about twenty minutes to write this post – if I’d been writing it as a traditional review, it’d have taken me at least a couple of hours of polishing, editing, grammar checking and making sure it actually said something comprehensible… 😉

      Haha! I now look back on Hemingway with something approaching affection…

  8. I would love to help but just reading the post has made me want to lie in a darkened room. I think the fact you are as far in as you are is a minor miracle. Give up now whilst you have a chance!

  9. I love that there is an ellipses connecting the sentence after the picture! LoL! Also, I feel pretty good about having never recommended this book to you and instead offering some pretty sweet choices instead. Makes me wanna stand like a pirate 😀

    • Haha! Thank you – you have no idea how hard it was to get the ellipses to fall in just the right place… 😉 Most of the GAN recommendatons have been brilliant, but one or two… well, let’s just say they’re not to my taste!

            • He was in a fiction writing class I was teaching. The goal was to get students to write a variety of stories and end with a portfolio of three polished pieces. This student, regardless of the exercise given, would basically rewrite a story about being alone on the sea. He felt the only two writers worth EVER reading were Hemingway and Faulkner. Quite a rigid young man! During workshops he would tell other students how to make their stories more like H or F when the writer clearly had no intention of writing such a story. I took to calling him Faulkingway in secret.

            • Haha! Sounds like a nightmare! I mean, everybody knows the only writer worth reading is Dickens… 😉 Sadly, I think a lot of people mistake being able to copy a style for being creative – I guess the ‘real’ writers want to create a style of their own…

  10. Your review made me laugh out loud! Ha ha! That’s my usual response to Faulkner! He was required reading in college. Sound and Fury, Light in August–arrrrrggggghhhh!

    • I had great delight in removing both of those from the Great American Novel Quest list! Haha! I may not have enjoyed the book, but I did enjoy pastiching it – I’m a bad person! 😉

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