The Sound and the Fury

“I don’t suppose anyone ever deliberately listens to a watch or a clock. You don’t have to. You can be oblivious to the sound for a long while, then in a second of ticking it can create in the mind unbroken the long diminishing parade of time you didn’t hear.”

William Faulkner

The Sound and the Fury is another delightful Modernist novel full of unreliable narrators (yes, narrators plural), limited perspectives and general horrors including, but not limited to, implied incest, suicide and robbery. Such fun.

It tells the story (sort of) of the Compson family, living in the Deep South. It’s told in four sections, each with a different point of view; the first is narrated by the mentally disabled Benjy, and is called by the introduction “these drivellings”, on the basis that all times happen at once and there is no exposition, only half-heard conversations and hidden meanings. Which is not a good thing to read when you’re about to embark on a novel you should have read last week and are desperately hoping it will be quick and easy to read. (Hah, fat chance of that with the Modernists.)

So, anyway, you get to the second section, from the beginning of which our Quote for the Day is taken, and you think, “hallelujah! Traditional narrative, thank God!” And then it goes into stream-of-consciousness narrative. Damn and blast.

I can see that this is a clever novel, revealing things piecemeal, slowly, building up a story over 300 pages. But I still don’t understand everything that happened: how did Caddy die? Why can’t Benjy turn left? Why did Harvard Quentin (oh yes, there are two Quentins) commit suicide? (In fact, I only know he did from the introduction. That should give you some idea of how elliptical this book is.)

The Sound and the Fury is not a bad book. It’s just…Modernist. And I’ve decided that I do not in fact like Modernists that much. They make everything more complicated than it needs to be.


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