Reading Faulkner

Love this article on the joys of and struggles with reading Faulkner. The assertion here is that Faulkner is often first encountered as assigned reading in high school or college, which can lead to frustrated readers who assume that Faulkner is all effort. This is certainly not the case:

“We too often see images of Faulkner as the stern silver-maned, sharp-mustachioed aristocrat in the houndstooth jacket, pipe in hand, who now foists his terribly dense prose on precocious students. But he was also a young, artsy, hilarious and unforgiving observer of human nature. The issues and themes that Faulkner treats in his novels and stories are eternal. Like any great writer, he crafted permanent monuments out of elementary materials—the old verities and truths of the heart, if you will—in the same tradition as his predecessors. Strangers come to town in “Light in August” and “Absalom, Absalom!” The Chaucerian journey is made in “As I Lay Dying”. Epic farce is on display in “Snopes”, and family drama gets positively freaky Greeky in “The Sound and the Fury”. The difference is he did it better than most.”

I’m a huge Faulkner fan, so I fully support a closer look at his work. In high school we were assigned “The Bear” (part of Go Down, Moses). I didn’t love it, but I liked the writing enough to check out some other Faulkner. Of course, I ended up getting The Sound and the Fury out of the library and diving right in. I probably missed most of the book, but I loved the language and the glimpses I got of the Compson family. I eventually studied more Faulkner in college/grad school, but I kind of liked having that first major Faulknerian experience be just the book and me. You don’t have to “get” everything the first time to enjoy the experience of being immersed in language and story.

If you’re a Faulkner fan and haven’t read his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, do it now. Or you can listen to Faulkner give his address here.

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