Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Sound and the Fury

The first time I read The Sound and The Fury, my reaction was "huh?" It seemed to be nothing more than some random scenes in the life of a dysfunctional southern family. Most seemed to be in Mississippi, but some Boston scenes are popped in the middle. Then it just ended. At first I thought it ended with a murder and escape, but after going over the end again, it was just a fast moving horse. So, again, huh?

Then I started again and it seemed to make sense. There really isn't much plot. Instead we have a number of different character studies told in styles representative of their current mental states. Most is told in a first person stream-of-conscious, though the end goes in a more traditional 3rd person narrative.

The first section is told from the perspective of a "lunatic" who is living in the now, but seamlessly jumps to events in his past, without really observing that they are anything other than current. This narrative weird narrative style works pretty well. However, the quality of the narrative seemed to be a little too strong for somebody with extremely limited mental capacities. At times he seems to be a fully normal adult, but then he drops down to a random event of the mentally challenged.

The second section breaks out of Mississippi and follows the brother at school in Boston. His mind is rapidly streaming everywhere, dredging up past problems with his family as well as issues with the world in general. At times, he has straightforward recollections of his family or live discussions with fisherman. At other times, his mind goes in to hyperdrive, rapidly linking thoughts and ideas and going in every which direction without any semblance of narrative. While this section can't be quickly read like a "plotty" narrative, the stream-of-conscious is done exceptionally well.

The last sections are more straightforward, and focus more on the money-centered Jason. After going through the wild thoughts of the others, this is rather pedestrian exploration of the dysfunctional family. However, storytelling is not Faulkner's strong point. The use of different writing styles to bring out characters is where he succeeds. His work reminds me of Jasper Fforde. It is great reading, but there is no engaging story that keeps you going.

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