I remember struggling through The Sound and the Fury in college, but I also remember really liking it. Benji’s narration has stuck with me, and every time I read a book written in multiple voices, I think of my first foray into Faulkner. I’m fairly certain it was my initial exposure to multiple narrators. So when I opened TSATF 25 years and about 500 books later, I thought it would be easy. I’m a much better reader today than I was back then. But 15 pages into it I found myself asking how did I ever get through this in my early 20’s? Crud. This is really hard. So I turned to Schmoop, and after reading a summary and some of the interpretations, I sighed at my need for a life vest, but swam on with a clearer view. Perhaps I grabbed Cliffs Notes back in my college days to keep myself afloat, but if I did, I don’t remember it. Once I got the hang of the time and scene changes—which sometimes happen several times per page—I found myself immersed in Benji’s limited world that orbits around his sister Caddy, the only Compton family member that truly cares for him and bothers to notice his feelings.
When a friend of mine asked what this book is about, I paused for longer than I thought I should need and came up with the best summary I could. “Well, it’s about family. A Southern, dysfunctional family in the early 1900s. It’s about race and money (dwindling money), pride and sexuality, it’s definitely about disillusion (mother rarely gets out of bed and Quentin commits suicide), and it’s about escape—or attempt at escape—or failure to escape things too powerful, like loving your sister too much. Benji comes out the only winner, I guess because he can’t escape his mental disability, and in many ways, that saves him. Everyone else just seems to suffocate under the weight of their own unhappiness. Though when Caddy’s daughter, Quentin (the 2nd Quentin), boldly leaves the confines of the Compton household, perhaps she is ultimately triumphant.”
This book is difficult and brilliant, but it takes a few reads (Faulkner suggests 3-4) to appreciate Faulkner’s craft and to see how he pulls us into the heads and hearts of his characters He compels us to live them. It’s a challenging journey that takes patience (and maybe a little help from Schmoop.com), but it’s worth the trip. (fiction)