Wow, it took like 2 minutes for me to remember just how much work this guy is to read. This is not the kind of book you take to the breakroom at work for a few minutes during lunch. The Sound and the Fury, like all of Faulkner that I can remember, takes work. You have to think — especially here in Part 1. Don’t get me wrong, Part 2 is no walk in the park, but Benjy’s narration is just so difficult to wade through given his cognitive ability.
Maybe I should back up a bit — this is the story of the fall of the Compson family — a great Southern family from Jefferson, MS, through (primarily) various stream of consciousness points of view. Part 1 is told through the point of view of Benjy. Benjy is 33 year-old developmentally disabled man, and his section is almost impossible to follow. There’s no chronological sense to it, it’s impossible to follow on first read as Benjy talks about a variety of events over the course of his life. Which is not to say there’s not a certain poetry, a power to it. But man . . .
Part 2 is possibly more difficult to understand, honestly, despite being told from Benjy’s older brother’s POV. But I don’t want to talk about the details — I just hate spoilers (even if you’ve had around 90 years to catch up). There are other POVs (including — thankfully, an omniscient third-person).
The plot is one thing — the experience of reading the novel is another. You want to know the power of the English language? Read William Faulkner. I don’t know what else to say. I’m not sure I’m equipped to talk about this, really — P.I.s, wizards, werewolves, dogs? Sure. The kind of thing that wins Nobel Prizes? That’s just beyond me. This is the stuff of history — of legend, really.
There is horrible language used throughout — the kind of thing that gets books banned from schools and classrooms, so if you’re easily offended, skip this. But it’s how people talked (still do), it’s honest, it’s brutal, it’s ugly, it’s human.
This is not my favorite novel by Faulkner — nor is it something I recommend to someone who’s never read the man before (maybe, As I Lay Dying?). That said, it’s full of fantastic writing, insights into the human condition, strange southerners, tragedy, and complexity that I cannot describe. Faulkner, as always, stands so far above the pack that it’s almost not fair to other books. Of course, 5 stars, how could it be anything else?