82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A challenging book that's worth the effort
Not for the beach, this one. But certainly worth ploughing through if you want to stretch your brain and think about life and death and consciousness. Most people will dismiss this book in the first few pages - it is notoriously difficult to get to grips with, and actually requires two readings before it starts to make any sense. But, as a reflection on the...
Published on 31 Aug 1999
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult Reading
I bought this book because I like American novels but hadn't read Faulkner before. I found it a difficult read and I don't know whether I like it or not at the moment. It's not because I have to have a conventional narrative (I like William Burroughs for example). It's more that I don't seem to become emotionally involved in the characters, and don't really care what...
Published 12 months ago by CB
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82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A challenging book that's worth the effort,
By A Customer
Not for the beach, this one. But certainly worth ploughing through if you want to stretch your brain and think about life and death and consciousness. Most people will dismiss this book in the first few pages - it is notoriously difficult to get to grips with, and actually requires two readings before it starts to make any sense. But, as a reflection on the incomprehensible nature of life, that's not bad. Most of us make little or no sense of our three score years and ten; in relative terms The Sound & the Fury is a breeze! This is a tragic story, and all the more so for the choked narrative voice of the dead. The repression in these pages is countered by the rebellious and almost unpunctuated text, and the contrast is stunning. It soon dawns on you - as a reader who is impatient at the challenge to traditional literature - that we're all victims of a man-made environment, and by social mores that cripple and destroy our souls. Faulkner's novel is not, by any stretch, the most enjoyable or entertaining that you will ever read. But it is certainly one of the most brave, and I would recommend it highly if you want to confront your own demons.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure genius,
By A Customer
This book revolutionized the way I looked at writing. The idea of writing some of the chapters from the point of view of a person who cannot even speak and who is about on the brain level of a baby is absolutely brilliant to me, as is the fact that Caddy's voice is never clearly known; instead, only her brothers, Benjy, Quentin, and Jason lead the narrations, opening up the forum for so many possibilities of who Caddy really is and what the nature of her sexuality is as it moves from her to her daughter Quentin. The idea of Benjy, running up and down the fence screaming for Caddy, will be with me for the rest of my life and will creep in every time I try to write a page of my own. The title is one of the most perfect I've ever encountered, taken, of course, from Shakespeare: "Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Avoid Preconceptions,
Faulkner is often regarded as a "difficult" novelist, and this book is indeed a densely dilineated, complex tome. It is also, however, incredibly straighforward. It is one of those texts that you just have to go with. Too many readers approach this book with trepidation, because they have been told they are not going to understand it. Turn loose of your preconceptions about fiction and about narrative, and you will be amply rewarded.
Faulkner, along with Joyce, was a master of stream-of-consciousness narrative, and this is his masterpiece in that regard. To appreciate such a technique, you must as the Beatles exhorted, "turn off your mind, relax and go downstream." Go with the flow, no matter you noxious that sounds these days. If you let yourself think for a while as Benjie does, the whole patchwork makes perfect sense.
This is a family novel, more than anything else, but it is obviously not about the Waltons. Faulkner made a career out of delineating the disfunction of not only Southern families, but of the South itself in the era following its ignominious Civil War defeat and surrender . The whole social structure broke down from within, and though no apologist, Faulkner was enough of a realist to depict the society in all its infirm decline.
Southern revisionists can come along and deny its accuracy, but for a true picture of ther region in the first half of the 20th century, Faulkner is more accurate than any social historian.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The structure of loss,
"The sound and the Fury" is difficult. It can be confusing. Many essays are devoted to whether the difficulty is justified, but it is important to remember that it was not Faulkner's intention for this book to be difficult.
When interviewed about this book he explained the book's structure in terms of his attempt to try to capture Caddy's story without removing the intensity and bile from its telling by reducing her to explaining herself. This is why there are four narrative voices, each time Faulkner tried a different voice to tell his tale, and each time in his own words "failed". This is not a reflection of the skills of Faulkner as an author - the book is exceptionally well written, but rather probably has its roots in the reductive nature of language, which Faulkner found failed to capture the image he wished to pen. An appendix was added to the book in later editions and Faulkner suggested that this should be read first, as it explains the plot, the four narratives then serve to elucidate and add colour to the bare facts provided in this short "obituary" as Faulkner termed it.
Returning to the book. This is, i feel, Faulkner's most ambitious novel, and if he claimed to have failed in his telling of it, it does not show, this book is emotionally draining and moving in not only the story that is unveils, but also in the manner of its unveiling. There must be few who can fail to be moved by the pithy second narration, with its disjointed syntax which tells of its own despair, or not feel pity in the simplicity of the first.
thematically, this book is huge, covering sin, death, love, greed, envy, power.... life!
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, while not as hard a read as I expected,
I wish I had studied this one at high school, its themes are so diverse and details so richly laid down. It isn't a tough book to follow if taken in over a short space of time; don't be put off by reviews that focus on complexity, Faulkner's words are never difficult to follow and the story is wonderfully human. The first chapter seems obscure on first reading and warrants a quick re-read once you're finished with the last, it is only 60 pages in length which means you're not given time to tire of the world the first narrator inhabits. By the third chapter, more becomes apparent and the story starts to make sense- I would look up a list of characters at some point, sparknotes.com or similar, to make things easier!
This edition is nicely printed, with a suitably concise introduction. Well recommended!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comments on the emotional impact of the narrative,
By A Customer
What can be said, in terms of literary praise, about this novel that has not been said? Nothing. I can only comment on the emotional impact the book had on me. Some of the most disturbing and tragic moments in literature are found within the pages, and unlike many novels of acclaim, the last three pages are so dynamic that I found myself repeating the phrase, "Thank You." over and over to myself. Never, before or since, have I ever turned the last leaf of a book with such satisfaction.
To touch on the difficulty of the reading, I should say that, like an enormous jigsaw puzzle, to examine and scrutinize each little piece is futile. Simply read it through. When you've finished reading it, the whole story is crystal clear. Every brilliant sentence is crystal. In no way a cryptic or confusing thing, The Sound and the Fury is a landmark in complex simplicity.
Don't let anyone tell you Patrick McCabe is an innovative writer. It's all been done, and done far, far better.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply amazing,
By A Customer
Everything in this book, the writing, the characterizations, the plot, the setting, everything, is simply astounding. It draws you in and holds your interest like very few books. Definitely a classic, and certainly for anyone who wants to read a well written book with meaningful content. This book is a masterpiece of literature. It not only towers over all the piddling "pop" literature that spews from the presses nowadays, but it is a titan over genuine quality literature.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Golf Ball as a Symbol of Circles Within Circles,
Before commenting on the content and value of the book, let me warn that this is one of the most difficult to understand and appreciate of all American novels. Several factors combine to create that difficulty. First, one of the narrators is a person with mental deficiencies. Second, the first section uses an unusual flashback technique that cannot be understood very clearly until you have read the whole book (perhaps more than once). Third, Faulkner is sparing in his clues of how the stories weave together. You have to watch carefully for them. Fourth, the sensibilities of the day meant that much is implied rather than stated overtly. But you have to understand what those hints are about, or you miss the story. Finally, there is much dense Southern black dialect here that requires slow reading to capture the sense of. Fifth, the interior dialogues are interspaced with external dialogues . . . which can create confusion. Sixth, there is a lot of crude stream of consciousness material here, but it will not enchant you as Joyce's or Proust's will. Seventh, the book is heavy with unusual symbolism that is easy to miss. Eighth, the center of the story is often drawn in by looking at the edges rather than looking directly at the center.
So if you like a challenge (like extremely complex puzzles), you will love The Sound and The Fury. If you like your fiction more straightforward, you are going to wonder where you are at times. If you like new experiences in your reading, you will find the book very rewarding.
You will meet three generations of Compsons in this novel, along with their servants, friends, and coworkers. Each Compson is experiencing perceptual disconnections that make them ineffectively connected to reality. But each is different in their dysfunction. You will move inside the minds of three of them to experience those perceptions for yourself. It will not be pleasant. All of this occurs against the backdrop of a precipitous drop in economic and social status in a small community where status is very important.
If you are like me, you will find the beauty of this story in its structure, symbolism, and the character of Dilsey, the family's servant.
The structure allows the reader to discern the book's reality from a subjective perspective, like good art does. There's lots of raw material for judgment here, and your opinions will slowly build. There are obvious connections among the characters and the story, but these connections leave you with basic questions about what causes what. Those questions of causation are one of the strengths of the novel. Because you can start with any circumstance and move off to look for connections, and you will rejoin yourself at the same circumstance eventually. Even in our disconnectedness, we are powerfully connected is the message. I think of this book as a five dimensional puzzle: with time, space, self-interest, subjective perception, and family being the five dimensions. Pulling it all into a coherent image is a worthy task that should delight your mind.
I normally would not dwell on one symbol in a book as complex as this one, but I was very impressed by how well Faulkner boiled down his message into one tiny golf ball. I also mention this symbol here because it will also save you rereading the book at least once if you pay attention to that symbol the first time you read it, and realize that it is important. The roundness of the golf ball also gives you a hint of the book's structure at a time when that structure is totally opaque. You will be returning to variations on this symbol through several circles in the rest of the novel. I will not say any more about this ball's symbolism, because that could ruin the story for you.
Finally, Dilsey is as fine a human being as you can hope to meet in person or in any novel. She reminds me of a good family friend of ours, Cecile Antaya. Her heart is full of practical Christian charity and patience. Her support is critical to the family and to the story. A good question to ask yourself at the end is whether or not this book is really focused on Dilsey rather than on the Compsons.
The title also deserves mention. This book is far more aural than almost any other novel. Sounds reverbrate at key moments to provide critical meaning. The book often speaks without sounds, but there is much fury when the words are internal. Some of the sounds, especially Benjy's sounds, help cause the fury. You will enjoy the interplay of the story with the title.
Difficult books make us better readers. I hope you will find these challenges rewarding! After you have finished making The Sound and The Fury part of yourself, I suggest that you conduct a little experiment. Take a mealtime conversation that you participated in. Write down what you remember and what you thought was going on. Then ask each of the other people to do so as well without any checking with one another. When everyone is done, compare the results and discuss those results. I think what you will find is that you have created a minor version of the communication issues in this novel. I think you will understand much more about what Faulkner was saying about perception as a result.
Build understanding by being more forgiving!
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply wonderfull!,
I was somewhat curious to see what the other reviewers made of this book, and I am somewhat surprised (not of the praise, that's of course expected) with comments that it isn't "enjoyable", and has to be read a number of times. Now please! I'm hardly some intellectual old English teacher unable to believe the "simple people" can't keep up, I really just scrapped through school but this book makes perfect sense, and I had no problems reading it at all. Seems a perfect beach book to me! To be honest I find someone like George Elliot more difficult!
The first part is written by a mentally handicapped man, but I found it both touching and real. The rest of the book rolls into your heart like a steam train, with an explosive climax you're never forget.
It is simply the best book ever written. Simple if you take it as it comes, don't re-read every sentence searching for the hidden meaning. Read it like a child and let the wonderful writing and story capture your imagination!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that made a great impression on my teenage self,
This review is from: The Sound And The Fury (Everyman's Library Classics) (Hardcover)
I first read "The Sound and the Fury" when I was approximately 16 years old, in a very old copy of "The Portable Faulkner", which I still own, in excellent condition, and bearing a fine old-book smell which still brings my original experience of reading it to mind when it comes into contact with my olfactory glands. I was astounded by its complexity and linguistic and structural virtuosity; I had read nothing like it. Though I did not immediately understand all that was happening, I would not have described the book as "difficult", as many do.
"The Sound and the Fury" concerns the Compson family and is set in Mississippi. It is divided into 4 sections. The first section, headed APRIL 7, 1928, is from Benjy's point of view; Benjy is an idiot, in the old-fashioned sense of the word, and this section is told in a stream of consciousness style, a stream of an idiot's consciousness, an idiot who cannot distinguish between experiencing and remembering, so this section constantly flickers between different events in Benjy's life in a manner likely to disorientate the unsuspecting reader. Then there is the fact that Benjy is also called Maury; he was christened Maury but his name was later changed. Knowing this can help the reader place a given scene in time. Furthermore, there are two characters called Quentin- one male, one female. All this can cause considerable confusion in the early stages of the book.
The second section follows Benjy's brother Quentin, and goes back in time to JUNE 2, 1910, which happens to be a momentous day in Quentin's life. Quentin is a sensitive young man, with the soul of a poet, obsessed with his sister Candace (Caddy), as indeed is Benjy. This is also told in the first person, at times clear and observational, at others fragmented and confused. Quentin's thoughts are dominated by memories of Caddy. In the last few pages of the section the structure of the language breaks down completely as Quentin's mental disorientation grows.
The third section, APRIL 6, 1928, is seen through the eyes of another Compson brother, Jason. Jason is a far more matter-of-fact character than his brothers so this section follows a linear progression through the day in question, and casts considerable light on Benjy's section. Jason is a sour and hostile individual. Unlike his siblings he is an ostensibly functioning member of his small-town Mississippi society. However, he is no less damaged than they, and his rage and frustration are expressed in his treatment of his family.
The fourth section, APRIL 8, 1928, is the only one with a third person narrator. It mostly follows the family's servant Dilsey, an elderly black woman whose dignity and calm contrasts with the mania and self-torment of the Compsons. By this stage of the book the narrative has become completely clear and if after reading this section one was to go back to the initially confusing first section, one would realize that all the sound and fury of Benjy's narrative fits into place as part of a complex but structured and ultimately comprehensible whole. This is where "The Sound and the Fury" differs from many other "modernist" novels, where the apparent complexity can simply hide a lack of focus and coherence, or at least is never resolved. I believe Faulkner wrote this over quite a short period, too, but he must have had the novel in its entirety in his head before he wrote it down as the occurences of the later sections are anticipated by many details in Benjy's section.
Faulkner himself is invisible in the background of the text. Many major 20th-century writers have taken themselves as their great subjects. Faulkner, though extremely modern in technique, is the opposite to this trend in his absence from the texts. It is not possible to say where his sympathies lie. In this he never betrays himself. Jason Compson, though certainly the most unlikable character, has as much reality and humanity as Quentin. There is no authorial presence, no higher morality beyond these characters: just a set of tortured people, what we would now call a "dysfunctional" family, except with a tragic grandeur worthy of Shakespeare.
Their servant Dilsey, on the other hand, would appear to have far greater cause for complaint against the hand life has dealt her, but the difficulty of her circumstances has imbued in her a nobility of spirit and a simple philosophy of faith, kindness and stoicism.
Perhaps the most enlightening commentary on the novel can be found in the quote from which is took its name, from Shakespeare's "Macbeth", where we are told that life is "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
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The Sound And The Fury (Vintage Classics) by William Faulkner