This list is the only even semi-active list dealing with any modern writer.
I write in hope some of the subscribers have studied Faulkner.
I've been listening to Absalom, Absalom on a couple different recordings of
it; I had read it back in 1955 but not since, and had forgotten (or had not
recognized then) what a tremendous work it is. Does anyone here have any
comment on it.
Here is one response I got on lbo-talk when I posted on the book there:
On Tue, Aug 21, 2012 at 10:30 PM, Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I've been listening to a recording of Absalom, Absalom. Listening is not
> same as reading prose of this quality; one does need to see it on the
> But even in this form, the book is bowling me over!
Yeah. When my daughter was two years old I was reading this book and
she asked me to read it to her. I figured she'd lose interest after a
minute, but an hour later she was still listening. Of course she
didn't get the words or story, but she was, I'm guessing, held rapt by
the flow of the prose, which is really unlike anything I've read.
> Tentatively, it seems to dramatize the fragmentation of historical
> understanding, the way it comes to us in bits & pieces and we struggle to
> put it together. With all due respect to a very great novel, War and
> Faulkner understands historical knowledge better than Tolstoi did -- he
> his narrator) was much too confident that he had grasped "history" as it
> "really was." Faulkner sees the flimsiness of that.
I think this is exactly right. Even Shreve's attempt to give it a
narrative coherence is frustrated and he can only accuse Quentin of
hating the South; his way of making sense of it is to personalize and
to erase the complex of narrations and their political/social forces
in favor of a moral or individual psychology. But Faulkner jumbles all
those things together and makes it difficult to distinguish historical
fact from historical memory. I think each of the narrators is supposed
to represent specific historical vantage points and political
assemblages, but they are not easily separable and there's no
objective "truth" to be discerned.
"He ceased [narrating] again. It was just as well, since he had no
listener. Perhaps he was aware of it. Then suddenly he had no talker
either, though possibly he was not aware of this. Because now neither
of them was there. They were both in Carolina and the time was
forty-six years ago, and it was not even four now, but compounded
still further, since now both of them were Henry Sutpen and both of
them were Bon, compounded each of both, yet either neither, smelling
the very smoke which had blown and faded away forty-six years ago...."
I agree with Frye that "judging" books is pointless; I find myself rather
more interested in Absalom, Absalom than in Ulysses -- a personal preference
rather than a judgment.