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Oprah's Book Club 2005 Summer Selection a Summer of Faulkner: As I Lay Dying/The Sound and the Fury/Light in August Paperback – 30 Jun 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 3 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books USA; Slp edition (30 Jun 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307275329
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307275325
  • Product Dimensions: 20.7 x 6.4 x 13.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 498,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Light in August, As I lay dying, and The Sound and the Fury are an excellent introduction to this major 20th century author. While some of the episodes are somewhat Joycean in their complexity, the beautiful prose lends itself to a second (or third) reading and well worth the effort.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Martin on 18 Jun 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having never heard of William Faulkner, I was amazed to learn that his works are deemed as some of the best literature of the twentieth century. I thus did some online research and settled for Oprah’s collection of three books.

The comments of some reviewers on Amazon did indicate that Faulkner is a really tough read. People commented that Faulkner is not for the faint hearted and that he’ll force you to think especially about racism. Being from South Africa I thought it might be useful to be exposed to an American view. I expected a though provoking book, some challenging words, tough grammar etcetera. Basically I expected something like a very tough version of Emerson or War and Peace.

Boy what a surprise when I tried to read it. Being stuck in a room listening to drunk drug addicts mumbling and arguing is more coherent than The Sound and The Fury. I gave up on page 95 after trying to read a 221 word sentence which was all over the place. Many of the paragraphs switches between italics and regular font, supposedly to indicate something like thoughts or mental back flashes. It took me almost the whole first chapter to figure out that this chapter is supposed to be the observations and thoughts of a character called Benji, who appear to be mentally disturbed.

I’ll try the other two books as well, but am not going to waste any more time on this one.

If you want to read Faulkner, my recommendation would be to try getting a copy from a library or to read a page or two on Amazon’s previews or Google books before you spend any money on this.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 77 reviews
210 of 232 people found the following review helpful
Black And White In Color 3 Jun 2005
By Kevin Killian - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Three of Faulkner's greatest novels re-packaged to take advantage of Oprah Winfrey's massive promotion. As we know, Oprah has so much street cred she could propel a shopping list to the top of the best seller list, so let's see what she can do for Faulkner, a writer who has sometimes been criticized for relying on stereotyped depictions of black characters. And at least two of these three novels face that explosive issue head on. In THE SOUND AND THE FURY, the multiple neuroses of the (white) Compson family are always being counterposed to the nurturing and loving family of (black) Dilsey and the rest of the servants. No matter what awful thing happens to one of the Compsons, Dilsey will always be hugging them to her bosom and singing plantations spirituals to cheer them up, ignoring her own systemic arthritis the better to give them the love and affection their own parents don't know how to dish up.

In LIGHT IN AUGUST, the racial identity of its protagonist, Joe Christmas, is a contested site, for no one knows if he's black, white, or what. Commentators have often associated Joe with Jesus Christ (right down to the same initials) and his posture of martyrdom can still bring your heart into your throat, it's a very harsh look at Southern life at the beginning of the last century and Faulkner doesn't shy away from cruelty. He does show that patience and love do overcome almost any obstacles, or at any rate they wear down the obstacles to the degree that they transmogrify into something else. But was he counselling patience for black people, telling them to go slow in their struggle for civil rights? Like any modernist text, LIGHT IN AUGUST is ambiguous and does not give up its answers very clearly.

AS I LAY DYING, which takes the narrative form of THE SOUND AND THE FURY and explodes it further, is not as direct as the other two books in terms of its navigation of black and white relations in the US. AS I LAY DYING is more private, less social, more of a lyric meditation on family and the great cavern of death. No one yet has bettered Faulkner in his ability to enter into the heads of so many disparate characters and this book might be the tour de force of all time. Even the mother (dead when the book begins) speaks from beyond the grave, almost as a ghost might, but a ghost still attached to her own body, as her boys trundle her coffin from one far place to another. (Like Lena Grove's journey in LIGHT IN AUGUST.)

I'm happy Oprah is doing this! Maybe she can get Jonathan Franzen on her show and he could explain how THE CORRECTIONS is really a post-modern re-make of the Compsons. The truth is that most US novelists, and many writers from overseas, owe a huge debt to William Faulkner. Even those who don't know it yet. He is a fact of our landscape, like the weather.
50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Not Exactly Light Summer Reading 25 Jun 2005
By SCS - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As an English Lit graduate, and aspiring writer, I have to admit that I took a step back when I saw this selection as Oprah's Summer Reading. Faulkner is not exactly the writer you take to the beach to read in snippets between sunscreen applications and frisbee tosses.

In my opinion (which probably isn't worth much to anyone except myself), Faulkner is quite possibly the most brilliant writer this country has ever witnessed. I have read too many of the reviews on Amazon that claim Faulkner's novels have no "plot". But any writer knows that plot is only one element of writing (and probably the least significant element). Too many contemporary novels (and movies...and TV shows) have nothing but plot. Faulkner's work fully realizes the most important elements of a beautiful story...character and ideas. Don't expect too much action in these books. Then again, are our lives defined by our daily actions, or how we feel about them? Faulkner's novels are about the inner lives of his characters, not their inane movements from one place to another.

I must admit that I think Oprah made a mistake with this choice. I am going to predict that 90% of the people that purchase this collection won't make it past page 20 of THE SOUND AND THE FURY. However, if you want to know what GREAT literature tastes like, take a chance.

Faulkner is the difference between fiction and Literature. While fiction is meant to entertain, Literature offers itself as a challenge to our cultural and personal beliefs. If you're looking for something like THE DAVINCI CODE (breathtaking chase sequences with paper-thin characters), this collection is not for you. But if you're bold enough to take a look at an authentic slice of America's past, Faulkner's the real deal. He's not easy, but what of great value is?
40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Brace yourself for the ride of your life. 7 Jun 2005
By Caponsacchi - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
No American author--not even Melville--has the potential to alter human consciousness as profoundly as Faulkner. The "bait" may be sensational plots, seemingly grotesque characters, and Southern Gothic settings, but the reward is knowledge of the innermost workings of the mind, of both the self in the world and the world of self. Faulkner is as advanced, as universal, as human as any author on the near side of Shakespeare.

Oprah's three selections are inarguably indispensable though not sufficient to a complete understanding of Faulkner's vision. Some readers may wish to start out with something lighter--for example, the short stories that are anthologized in introductory literature courses ("Rose for Emily," "Barn Burning," "That Evening Sun," and "The Bear"--short edition). And for those readers who jump right into the novels and survive the challenge of Faulkner's syntax, jump cuts, and stream-of-consciousness technique, there yet remains his masterpiece: "Absalom, Absalom!"

In reading some of the previous reviews, I see there are a number of readers who either dismiss or condemn Faulkner in no uncertain terms. Just give him a chance and your undivided attention. I've witnessed high school students with little to no interest in reading come to life after participating in and constructing the meanings of "The Sound and the Fury." For those who have doubts that the pay-off is worth the effort, I'll offer a glimpse of the rewards. Here are the areas where Faulkner has affected me most deeply and indelibly:

1. History and the personal sense of the past. The present is always "filled" with the past and hence cannot be understood without a willingness to own the past--all of it. On the other hand, many of Faulkner's characters remain entrapped by the past, simply unable to escape their imprisonment in a dream gone bad, or in a "magnificent idea" (the Grand Old South) that was tainted from the very beginning.

2. Gender. Faulkner probes into the recesses of human consciousness, men and women. His strong women characters outdo his strongest men in wisdom, resilience, and stoic backbone. And just at the moment when we think we've got one of his characters figured out, he removes another layer of the outer persona, repeating the process until finally we've arrived at the inner sanctuary of a desire so ineffably private and intense that it's as if the mystery of human personality itself has been bridged.

3. Race. It's everybody's business, as no author has made clearer. A reader who has completed these three novels along with "Go Down Moses" and the crucial "Absalom, Absalom!," is unlikely to see race and color as before. Every reader must "earn" the insight for themselves, but for Faulkner "blackness," pure and simple, equates to "humanness." Color is less a marker than part of the human condition. To insist on a pure ethnic or racial strain is to invite "incest," Faulkner's metaphor for the terminal disease of racial pride and segregation.

4. Language. This area is the most elusive for the general reader, but for Faulkner language is not only medium but subject and substance. "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was made flesh." For Faulkner, language is what distinguishes humans from all other creatures. It's not merely a "tool"; it's human consciousness itself. Paradoxically, one of his most "alive" characters, Addie Bundren ("As I Lay Dying"), hates words because they seem inadequate to represent her desires. The very expression of those desires refutes her aversion to words; in fact, the very force of her words (the language of a dead woman!) controls all that transpires in her story.

If this is your first conversation with Faulkner, I almost envy you. Don't be surprised if it's not your last.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
to each his own 14 Jun 2005
By Mitchell G. Farish - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Just because you don't like something doesn't mean it's a "fraud" or that it's "boring" or "depressing." If you don't like something, say "it's not for me" and move on. Faulkner isn't for everyone just like Shakespeare isn't for everyone. I like Faulkner; I would like others to try Faulkner before dismissing him. Judging from the reviews here, many people like what Faulkner had to say, or at least found it interesting. But you'll never know until you risk a little time and effort.
51 of 62 people found the following review helpful
Faulkner was and will always be one of the best!!!! 5 Jun 2005
By Frederick A. Babb - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Somehow, I don't think that such a distinguish author as William Faulkner needs to have the seal of Oprah's approval as a sign of excellence. However, it does open the door for a new generation of readers to discover one of the great authors of the 20th century. For that, I am sure that deep in William's grave, there is a bit of happiness occurring. And for those readers who have never had the opportunity to enjoy one of the master's works; now is the time to discover what writing from the soul really is like.


One family must come to face the task of burying their mother and wife, Addie. Unlike so many books of today, Faulkner tells the tale from the many different points of views in a more heartfelt sense and not preachy as many stories attempt to do. All the family's different points of view are brought together as the venture through the Mississippi countryside, with Addie's coffin, looking for the right place to bury her.


Again, Faulkner takes on an unforgettable venture through the minds and words of the Compson siblings. The mentally challenged Benjy, the phobic filled, suicidal Quentin and the hideous Jason tell the tale of their sister, Caddy. A dysfunctional family if ever there was one that, given the year this story was written, dealt with their problems long before there was professional help available. To counter their ways and problems, the Dilsey's (one of the servants) family provides the love and care. Oh, and to demonstrate the sign of the times, the Compson family was white and the family of Dilsey's was black. This story provides another reflection of coexistence in an era where racism was still the norm, not the exception.


Here we have an array of some of Faulkner's most enlighten characters revolving around a story that, again, reflects the overtones of racism. Joe Christmas is the object of much discussion. Is he black or white? A mystifying wanderer traveling through the Deep South, his story outlines real life in that ambient lifestyle. Faulkner doesn't sugarcoat the truth of life some 80 years ago and dignifies the human race with the ability to provide love and understand able to, with time, overcome the most horrendous mindsets of people.

For those that have read these timeless classics, no review would ever do them the justice they deserve. For those that have yet to discover Faulkner, now is the time to do so, this summer. Thank you Oprah, for reopening the treasure box to the world!

Frederick A. Babb
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