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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Sound and the Fury (1929) by William Faulkner

Of course James Franco made a movie version of The Sound and the Fury this year (2014) and cast himself as Benjy Compson

Book Review
The Sound and the Fury (1929)
 by William Faulkner

   The Sound and the Fury is a well recognized classic of experimental modernism, typically listed alongside works of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf as exemplars of the narrative technique of "stream of consciousness," though The Sound and the Fury only uses a "true" stream of consciousness technique for one of the four parts of this book.  The Sound and the Fury is also notable because Faulkner is an AMERICAN modernist, and because he writes about the south.  I can think of several prior examples, but Faulkner is typically credited with the invention of Southern Literature.

  I would suspect that due to the combination of modernist technique/American parentage/Southern provenance, The Sound and the Fury is widely taught in college level literature courses.  How ironic (or fitting?) that the first hundred pages, he stream of consciousness ramblings of the mentally challenged Benjamin "Benjy" Compson should be such a famous example of American modernist literature.  One might well ask- as does the writer for the capsule summary of this title in 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, why the first narrator of the American south in world literature is a retard obsessed with his sister's dirty panties, but perhaps to ask is to miss the point of modernist literature and literature period.

   Themes of virginity, incest, failure and suicide permeate the four portions of The Sound and the Fury.  The pure stream of consciousness of the first portion subsides into a more conventional last 3 quarters of the novel, with the last section even adopting a classic third person narrator for the segment involving Dilsey, the Compson families long-suffering African American maid.  The "difficult" tag so affixed to The Sound and the Fury really only fits for that first portion- afterwards the reader can expect a relatively placid stroll through the caverns of incest, suicide and madness that Faulkner used to create his world of southern literature.


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