The Sound and The Fury

Of the three William Faulkner novels that I’ve read, The Sound and The Fury was the most difficult one for me to read. Using Faulkner’s Light in August as a standard for learning how to write multi-dimensional characters with a distinct framework and style puts The Sound and The Fury on the opposite end of the spectrum.  I’m glad I read this after Light in August and As I Lay Dying, otherwise I might have been discouraged to pick up another Faulkner book and would have missed out on the other two.

The Sound and The Fury is divided into four sections. The first section is 75 pages of non-stop dialog of mostly children. The one interesting view point was of Benjy, a mentally challenged man. But other than that, I prefer some prose–I need some down time from all the concentrated effort of trying to keep the dialog straight with the characters. All I could think about is when will it end, and after a while I didn’t care who was talking or what they were talking about.

Flashbacks and timelines are not always linear so it’s tough to keep it straight without diagramming it out and going back to re-read previous chapters or sections. In this case, I recommend reading summaries about this book before you start reading it instead of after. Otherwise, you may find it as frustrating as I did trying to figure out who is talking, who is in which family, who died, who is sick, and what the heck is going on. It’s been a few years since I read this book, but my notes say, “…there are enough difficulties to deal with in life, without adding what we read to the stack.”

So, if you like reading a book several times and want to study and diagram it out to understand it, then this book is for you. If not, you’ve been warned. Put it down and walk away. But if you’re looking for a challenge and this is one of the most challenging, then go to your quiet place and read this one.

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