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Absalom, Absalom
by William Faulkner
      Robert Armstrong ( 
      Monday, January 04, 1999 10:32 AM 

Perhaps I'm jumping the gun by starting this discussion (I realize that you
Usually begin on the 15th) however, I'm having a lot of reactions as I begin to
read this book and I'd like to articulate them while they are fresh on my mind.
I'll limit my comments to the style of the writing rather than get into the
story line and save that until later. There is no question that WF is an
original voice. It bubbles up from some underflow of consciousness and I find
Chapter 1 like swimming in his thoughts with occasional currents moving me
swiftly forward, effortlessly and ecstatically (is that too strong?) streaming
along, captured in his riff, like (to shift the metaphor) listening to Ella take
off. However, not all the currents are in motion and there is this strangely
disconcerting experience of being left in stasis, where I am reading his words
and they suddenly become tedious, double backing upon themselves in repetition
and obsession. It is an uneven opening chapter, quite unlike the magnificent
opening chapter of LIGHT IN AUGUST, nor as arrestingly original as the beginning


      Sherry Keller ( 
      Monday, January 04, 1999 01:17 PM 

I just read the first chapter myself, Robert, and I understand (I think) exactly
what you mean. Sometimes his language is so ethereal, it could only be from a
dream. And sometimes, you just want to shake him and say, "What the hell
are you talking about?" I asked myself, if this were submitted today, would
anyone publish it? I read it many moons ago and remember just diving in, knowing
I wouldn't understand all of it. But I remember that my last impression was that
I loved it. I wonder if I will still love it. 


      Dick Haggart ( 
      Monday, January 04, 1999 01:42 PM 

I haven't started "AA" yet but I so well recall Steve Warbasse, Dale
Short and Marty Priola's beguiling descriptions of his writing back on Prodigy,
which seduced me into reading my first Faulkner since college: "The Sound
and the Fury" and "As I Lay Dying" (and in fairness, my first
Faulkner ever, in the sense I had never given him half a chance, or even 10% of
my attention. Education is so wasted on the young). If I recall correctly Ruth
Bavetta was close to being in the same boat as I -- the "Faulkner is just
too dense and slow for me club" (apologies, Ruth if it was someone else).
This was at the same time we were reading a lot of Cormac McCarthy, and the
combination of reading/discovering the two authors at the same time was one of
the most powerful, emotionally charged reading experiences of my adult life.

I'm really looking forward to AA. Will be reading it on my upcoming vacation,
but will probably miss most of the discussion due to the travel schedule.
Perhaps I can find a cyber cafe where I can check in briefly.


      R Bavetta ( 
      Monday, January 04, 1999 04:22 PM 

You're right, Dick. It was I. Threw in the towel in college. Picked it up again
with CR and discovered I liked being tumbled along in the flow of Faulkner's
formidable prose. Seems to me we did The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying,and
Light in August in fairly rapid succession. That is, the succession was rapid.
The reading wasn't.

Robert, I'm just into Chapter 2, right now, and I couldn't agree more with your
assessment of Chapter 1. My edition has a summary of events and a list of
characters in the back, which has already proved invaluable, but right now, I'm
paddling determinedly upstream and counting that some of this will sort itself
out as I go. And if it doesn't, the ride itself may well be worth the trying.

Ruth, in sunny Southern California, where a high of 79 is predicted

      Anne Wilfong ( 
      Monday, January 04, 1999 08:47 PM 


Thanks for starting this thread. It's giving me the incentive to keep plugging
on. I thought it was just minute I'm sailing along, thinking it's a bit
like Cormac McCarthy, the next minute I'm totally lost. I've never gotten beyond
a few chapters of any Faulkner work, and that's been at least 25 years ago. So,
I'll give it a good shot. Not promising the outcome, and I don't hesitate to put
down a book that just doesn't grab me. But with you all here to help out, I'll try!


      Felix Miller ( 
      Tuesday, January 05, 1999 08:31 PM 

I am enjoying all the early comments on Absalom, Absalom, my second favorite
Faulkner, but I must interject a question of Anne Wilfong:

You read Faulkner 25 years ago? You must have been a precocious reader, back in
elementary school. You certainly don't look like a near contemporary of my aged

AA is difficult to get into, although as a southerner well-supplied with prolix
elderly female relatives, Quentin's sessions with Rosa Coldfield are not all
that foreign to me. Like the ancient mariner, and Quentin, there have been many
times I could not choose but hear.

I always associate this book with The Sound and the Fury, my favorite Faulkner
work. Obviously, the appearance of Quentin Compson contributes to that
association, but the subsidiary theme of incest parallels TSATF also.

AA is on a broader canvas than the more personal and hermetically sealed world
of the decaying Compson family, with lots more history and social panorama,
which is probably why it strikes many people as a work on a grander scale than
TSATF. I think both books are working the same vein of corrupted values in the
south, one more spread out than the other.

I will post further. (a shudder runs through the CR audience )

Regards from the valley,
Felix Miller
That time of year thou mays't in me behold/when yellow leaves or few, or none do
hang/ on those boughs that shake against the cold/bare, ruin'd choirs where late
the sweet birds sang.

      Dick Haggart ( 
      Wednesday, January 06, 1999 08:27 AM 

Now Felix, don't be so hard yourself. What more diversion could life offer than
reading what a cultivated southern gentleman has to say about Faulkner? Except
perhaps, going on vacation, which is what I'm about to do in 2 hours. Cheers
all. See you in a couple of weeks.


      Anne Wilfong ( 
      Wednesday, January 06, 1999 04:31 PM 

Thank you Felix, for the compliment of the year! When I last attempted Faulkner,
lo those 25 years ago, I was at the tender age of 16. 

And I'm still struggling. With Faulkner, that is, not my age!


      Jane Niemeier ( 
      Wednesday, January 06, 1999 08:41 PM 

Hi all,
I must agree with you about Faulkner's style in this book. I just passed page
100, and I seem to spend a lot of time back-tracking and rereading to make sure
I haven't missed anything. Even after rereading, I feel the way that Sherry
does, and I think "Say, what???" I do find the story and the way it
unwinds to be fascinating. The second page seems to give a simplified version of
the next hundred pages "Immobile, bearded and hand palm-lifted the horseman
sat: behind him the wild blacks and the captive architect huddled quietly,
carrying in bloodless paradox the shovels and picks and axes of peaceful
conquest." I read three Faulkner novels years ago by myself so I didn't get
much out of them. I am really looking forward to this discussion.

AA reminds me a lot of BELOVED by Toni Morrison. I was very confused at the
beginning, but TM slowly unraveled the story and I loved it. Perhaps TM owes a
lot to WF.


      Robert Armstrong ( 
      Thursday, January 07, 1999 04:40 PM 

This post is probably reaching, perhaps a little too far, but I'm determined to
articulate this thought. By the way, Faulkner often reaches just a little too
far and slams to the ground in numerous failed attempts, but he gets right back
up and goes on with his tale and is most definitely weaving me into his web
because the story is just mesmeric and with every new strand I am further
captive in his spell. My guess is that if this book is read a second time the
flaws fairly disappear. I keep having that "What, what?" experience
and have marked several of the most incomprehensible sentences, and then I went
back to the worst one just now and reread it and completely understood it! It is
because the comprehension of the sentence is predicated on information not yet
revealed at that point in the book. SO -- here's my new approach to AA: when I
don't get it, so what. I'll get it later because Faulkner keeps stroking the
lamp, each swipe revealing more lustre and ultimately the genie will out. 

Also, at several points when the going got tough I read the passage out loud and
this was helpful (adding my best southern accent for fun.) The language has a
pleasant storyteller's cadence which had added another dimension ameliorating
the incomprehensibility which I anticipate will eventually be clarified. 

I'm now on p. 112 (Ch. 5) of the Vintage International Edition.


      Dale Short ( 
      Thursday, January 07, 1999 05:22 PM 

Robt: Enjoyed your take on Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom.

If my memory serves me (which it mostly does not), an interviewer once asked
Faulkner who he thought was the greatest fiction writer of his own time. I think
the reporter inserted some intermediary caveat, such as "other than

As I recall, Faulkner said that this was a difficult question. Writers, Faulkner
said, can either be judged by what they accomplish, or by what they attempt.

As to accomplishments, Faulkner unhesitatingly named Hemingway, however stormy
their personal relationship had been over the years.

But as for attempting the highest goal, win or lose, Faulkner named Thomas

Dale in Ala. 

      Felix Miller ( 
      Thursday, January 07, 1999 06:28 PM 

Yes, Dale, I remember that quote. I believe it caused a minor controversy, at
least with Hemingway, because Faulkner used the term "courage" in
describing the relative daring of different author's efforts. His point was that
Hemingway had found what worked for him, and did not push beyond that, while
Wolfe atttempted leap after leap to "put all experience on the head of a
pin" (probably an inexact quote), and failed. WF said that an author's
greatness was measured by the scale of his attempt, and the consequent failure.
In that connection I believe WF said that TSATF was his greatest failure, and
therefore closest to his heart.

Hemingway only heeded the use of the word "courage" due to his
particular obsession with that subject, and enlisted testimonials from former
WWI participants to establish his bona fides as a courageous person, therefore
missing entirely the point of Faulkner's comments.

Telling story about both authors, I think.
Regards from the valley,
Felix Miller
That time of year thou mays't in me behold/when yellow leaves or few, or none do
hang/ on those boughs that shake against the cold/bare, ruin'd choirs where late
the sweet birds sang.

      Robert Armstrong ( 
      Thursday, January 07, 1999 10:51 PM 

This writer really provokes me. I want to amend a prior statement when I said
that if one would read AA a second time then the flaws would probably disappear.
SOME of the flaws, that is, because there are flaws that are not going to go
away: specifically, this tendency he has to interrupt himself with asides. I
understand that one's mind does this, we interrupt a through-line of thinking
with other thoughts, and so, technically, this habit of Faulkner's to interrupt
is real to life and characteristic of one's stream of consciousness. HOWEVER, in
the text of a book where the through-line thought is someone else's, an
unfamiliar thought about something new, to have it interrupted by these weirdly
placed parenthetical statements, for throwing the book across
the room. There are sentences, lots of them, which are absolutely not
comprehensible without rereading them because of the interrupting parenthetical
ideas which cause the reader to lose his/her place (MIND!) I just don't see the
purpose or value for the reader. I see it as rather the way it occurred to the
writer, who was having interrupting ideas as he wrote and so this is how it came
out. But to insist on keeping it that way is counter productive to the flow and
enjoyment of the reading experience and, I'll go as far as to say, a vain and
stubborn choice for the writer to make. There can't be an editor alive who
actually LIKED these snarled knots. I can just see them pleading with WF for a
little revision to make the text more reader-friendly.  What makes this
especially frustrating to me is the brilliance of most of it. The story has me
in it's thrall and still I keep putting the book down in disgust. Anyway, I'm in
for the long haul but I feel like Miss Rosa being pulled 12 miles by a dying
mule trying to get to the heart of the matter.


      R Bavetta ( 
      Friday, January 08, 1999 12:14 AM 

Hear, hear.


      Jim Heath ( 
      Friday, January 08, 1999 08:19 AM 

Idle Thoughts:

Jane Wrote: "Perhaps TM owes a lot to WF." IMHO, perhaps Toni Morrison
should be royalties to Faulkner's estate.

Dick wrote that he is going on vacation. Can you imagine not wanting to spend
January in Anchorage? Of course, I suppose he could be checking out Pt. Barrow.

On the general question of how difficult Faulkner is to follow, I suspect that
the difficulty lies with the whole modernist idea that the work of art should be
a puzzle that the reader puts together and that the work is richer as a result
of the technique. I remember one critic who wrote that every Faulkner novel is
essentially a mystery story.

Of course, that doesn't mean that we all have the obligation to solve the
puzzle. Not while Baywatch is still on.

      Jane Niemeier ( 
      Friday, January 08, 1999 08:41 PM 

Hi all,
Yesterday, I had hall duty, and I optimistically brought ABSALOM, ABSALOM! with
me, in case I finished my other school work. Since my post is near the English
office, several English teachers passed by me and mentioned the book. I asked
each and every one of them if he or she had read AA, and only one had. They all
shook their heads and seemed to admire me for reading this book when I didn't
have to. But, tonight I dropped in at THE TATTERED COVER and noticed a display
of books that was based on a list put out by Radcliffe College of the best 100
novels. AA was number 58. THE SOUND AND THE FURY was on it as well, higher up, I

      Rodney Welch ( 
      Thursday, January 14, 1999 01:26 PM 

I've read ABSALOM three times, and found it rather diminished in interest. Once
you get over the newness of Faulkner's style, it gets annoying.

I have nothing but praise, on the other hand, for THE SOUND AND THE FURY, which
I think is one of the greatest American novels. 

      R Bavetta ( 
      Thursday, January 14, 1999 03:07 PM 

Three times? Omigawd. You have risen in my estimation of your perseverance,
intelligence, and general all-round stubborness. I loved The Sound and the Fury,
but I'm having a hard time with this one. I put it down in favor of Tender is
the Night, and I must admit I'm going to have a hard time picking it up again.


      Jane Niemeier ( 
      Saturday, January 16, 1999 09:59 PM 

Hi all,
I have almost finished AA. I am still annoyed with the style. I really don't see
the point of telling the story with the flashback point of view. I would have
liked it much more if it had been told in chronological order. We could have
ended up with Quentin and Shreve talking about Rosa's last days and their
impressions of the whole thing. There seem to be just too many words, I think.


      Barbara Hill ( 
      Sunday, January 17, 1999 11:09 PM 

Jane - I just finished the book today. I sometimes felt I was reading this book
thru a smoke screen, if that makes sense, but it still kept me reading. What a
tangled mess Tom Sutpen made of his family. I have to spend some time
thinking about this book. Maybe need to even read it again, but not right away.

Barb Hill

      Sherry Keller ( 
      Monday, January 18, 1999 07:57 AM 

This is a re-read for me and I am finding it slow going (especially since the
book I pick up is Tender is the Night). But I will get back to it. I hate
unfinished books, even ones I HAVE finished, but not within the past twenty


Just finished ABSALOM, ABSALOM! For those of you who are still wading through it
and wondering why ever for, I have to say I am really glad that I read this book
and regard it as a masterpiece, flaws and all. The story is haunting me to no
end and has placed me into the the heart of the old South better than any other
reading experience I have had. More thoughts to come.


Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (24 of 24), Read 8 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Jane Niemeier ( Date: Tuesday, January 19, 1999 08:31 PM Robt, I agree that I am glad that I finished this book. I am not sure that I would qualify it as a masterpiece, but I am looking forward to reading your thoughts on the subject. Jane From: Pres Lancaster ( Date: Thursday, January 21, 1999 01:16 PM 19.People, Places, and Events A Faulkner -includes definitions (397 words as of Dec 26 1998) [index = mcs] This can be accessed via Pres
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (26 of 29), Read 15 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Robert Armstrong ( Date: Saturday, January 23, 1999 09:59 AM Some rambling comments about ABSALOM, ABSALOM! WF rambles so I give myself license. It's the vision of the decimated old south that stands out for me. I am transported into the psyche of it better than I have ever been before. Thomas Sutpen is an unforgettable character, a prototype, who transcends the south and yet explains something of the blind spot which includes slavery as foundational to one's endeavors. His Tower of Babel, God-defying ambition seemed both necessary to his success and destruction. It is both his most admirable and heinous trait. If Sutpen hadn't been able to erect a monument out of a swamp through such force of will there would be no story. It reminds me of what a central value laser-focused ambition is in the American culture and how it is often secondary as to how the "achievement" is manifested. The plantation dominates Jefferson's psyche. Sutpen's Hundred is every bit the county's great pride as it is its embarrassment. *****SPOILER ALERT**** The scene where Thomas Sutpen as a boy is refused to be received by the Negro servant at the front door of the Virginia plantation, which become a catalytic event for Sutpen's vision, brings to light the corrupting influence of crime which is entrenched within the societal norm and how a child can dissect it out of the niceties which keep it transparent to the culture at large. Might makes right is an understandable interpretation of early 19 century American culture. This theme repeats in the Godfather trilogy and is echoed in Wall Street and throughout contemporary morays. Upon what values is the Sutpen "dynasty" built? The swamp is the appropriate metaphor. The tragedy of Henry Sutpen, the acceptable son, is that he is unable to transcend his father's moral blindness. The recognition of the devastation of racial inequity is beyond Henry, he cannot shake his racial superiority for it is the foundation upon which his prominence is based. And it ends up that his murder of Charles Bon is influenced by Charles' mixed blood, the suggestion that bigamy and incest he'd consider as acceptable for his sister, but mixing white and black blood is a bridge too far. The second half of the book fared far better for me than the first and the last several chapter fairly flew. The gothic images of that crumbling mansion in the Mississippi swamp housing the doomed family members as the defeated Confederate soldiers retreat to their ruined land is exceptionally powerful and well drawn. I felt that I was in the company of Miss Rosa and Quentin Compson as they travelled at night to the old estate. The writing here is wonderful. Robt
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (27 of 29), Read 12 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Jane Niemeier ( Date: Saturday, January 23, 1999 10:34 PM Robt, I agree with about the last half of the book. It went much faster than the first half. WF gave us a puzzle at the beginning, and he slowly threw out clues and hints until we understood the early descriptions hidden in so many words. I, too, loved the view of the decaying south. It all seemed tied into a Greek tragedy of some sort, with the incest and tales of brother killing brother. I mentioned in another note that the scandal of having African blood seems so ordinary today that it makes one forget how important that racial purity used to be (and still is in some circles as shown in the film, AMERICAN HISTORY X). I just wish the I had read THE SOUND AND THE FURY with all of you. Jane
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (28 of 29), Read 14 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Felix Miller ( Date: Sunday, January 24, 1999 05:47 AM Jane, anytime you want to read The Sound and the Fury, I promise to participate in discussing it with you. My favorite Faulkner. I bet others would join in, as well. Of course, there are so many books, so little time..... Regards from the valley, Felix Miller ...time has ticked a heaven round the stars.
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (29 of 29), Read 14 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall ( Date: Sunday, January 24, 1999 12:07 PM I regret not having a reread of this Faulkner with this group. And Felix -- so many books, etc. but my quandry is -- where do I find the words surrounding your '...time has ticked a heaven round the stars.'? I am in a fog but I like this line -- point me in the right direction please. Dottie back from a Chateau hunt in the Ardennes and off to find some easy and inexpensive dinner in town ID is an oxymoron! From: Felix Miller ( Date: Monday, January 25, 1999 04:47 AM Dottie, "The Force that through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower" by Dylan Thomas is the source of the fragment of line below. I have always liked this particular image, or word conjunction, or whatever. Regards from the valley, Felix Miller ...time has ticked a heaven round the stars.
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (31 of 36), Read 13 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall ( Date: Monday, January 25, 1999 11:48 AM Felix -- Perhaps this quote 'spoke' to me because it comes from work by Dylan Thomas -- I enjoy exploring his writing! I long ago made the reading of A Child's Christmas In Wales a part of my personal celebrations of the holiday season and have vinyl recordings of others of his works which are languishing now that we have moved to the CD era. Thanks for sharing -- Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (32 of 36), Read 11 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta ( Date: Monday, January 25, 1999 03:39 PM Dottie, I have a vinyl recording of Dylan Thomas's Under Milkwood, which someone gave to me when he was cleaning out his possessions. It's absolutely marvelous. Ruth
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (33 of 36), Read 6 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Robert Armstrong ( Date: Monday, January 25, 1999 11:54 PM *****SPOILER ALERT***** Were you drawn to Thomas Sutpen in any way? Has anyone read a book which better depicts the heart of the Civil War era South than AA? Would Judith have married Charles Bon knowing that he was her half brother? Knowing that he had mixed blood? Did Faulkner's style ruin this book for you? Which character did you find most compelling? Please, play with me! Robt
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (34 of 36), Read 6 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: R Bavetta ( Date: Tuesday, January 26, 1999 12:19 AM Aw, Robt. I'm sorry. I just couldn't get into this one and threw in the towel about a quarter of the way in. It may have had more to do with what's going on in the rest of my life, than with Faulkner's style, which I loved in several other of his books. Ruth
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (35 of 36), Read 6 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall ( Date: Tuesday, January 26, 1999 03:14 AM Robert -- your posts on this have been such a delight and so thought provoking that I almost feel I have reread AA but alas, I did NOT reread this one with the group -- said earlier that I regret it -- and I am saying it again. Dottie -- who is swimming in the first volume of Proust now that Save Me The Waltz is finished. ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (36 of 36), Read 4 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Robert Armstrong ( Date: Tuesday, January 26, 1999 07:24 AM Ruth, Well, I can understand it. I almost threw in the towel myself. Dottie, Proust is like Mt. Everest to me. I really want to read him I ready? Anyway, I am reading MOBY DICK now which I thought would be a steep climb but is actually such fun that I feel like I'm being carried to the breathtaking overlooks on a pillowed litter. Robt From: Jane Niemeier ( Date: Tuesday, January 26, 1999 08:56 PM Robt, Even after all of the words and pages about Sutpen, I feel that he is still somewhat of a mystery. And no, I wasn't drawn to him at all. Yes, I think that Judith would have married Bon, no matter what. Maybe, she felt that she had no choice after the war. It must have been the same for young women after World War I, particularly in Europe. Keep posting! Jane
From: Edd Houghton ( Date: Wednesday, January 27, 1999 12:04 AM DOTTIE A very popular item in France (so I've read) is a comic book of SWANN'S WAY. It has become so popular that they are talking of doing the other 12 or 13 or however many volumes. Of course it is in French. It would be very interesting to see how someone could fill up a comic book page with madelaines and cork. EDD
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (39 of 43), Read 16 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall ( Date: Wednesday, January 27, 1999 03:48 AM EDD -- I read about that comic book series of Proust work also somewhere -- perhaps in the notes and so on in my book -- don't recall. I am over halfway through this one -- I may not be reading it as it should be read but it is flying along at times -- I do find little gems which I checkmark in the margins from time to time -- maybe I will decide on a few to post here in a while. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (40 of 43), Read 11 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short ( Date: Wednesday, January 27, 1999 08:17 AM Dottie, Edd & All: I had never read a word of Proust until a couple of years ago, and SWANN'S WAY absolutely hypnotized me. Reading it each night felt like sinking into a warm bath. I can see how he might be an acquired taste, though. In a little book called something like FAMOUS REJECTION LETTERS, there's a Proust entry. One of the publishers he approached early on said, "I just can't understand why it should require three pages to say that a chap turned over in bed." >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (41 of 43), Read 10 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dottie Randall ( Date: Wednesday, January 27, 1999 09:25 AM That is a perfect description of this reading! For page after page you can let the most wonderful words and phrases just flow all around you. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (42 of 43), Read 13 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Robert Armstrong ( Date: Wednesday, January 27, 1999 08:26 AM Jane, Although essentially repulsed by Thomas Sutpen, I was drawn to his ambition, his single-minded commitment that could create a magnificent plantation from nothing, probably because of the stage in my life where I'm evaluating my own achievements and wishing I would be more tenacious with my goals. This attraction speaks to the programming I have acquired as an American male. However, I realize that Faulkner is chronicling the terrible price that is exacted from a life lived by force and it is Sutpen's disregard for the value of human life or the respect of anyone else's wishes that I find so repulsive. While I can't stand the boastful posturing of Donald Trump, I'd like to achieve some of his success. But, then, what is success? -- a question aptly raised in this novel. It has been unclear to me whether or not Judith would have married Bon, but I think you are right. Also, the letter that he wrote her is truly remarkable. The plain suffering of a returning soldier makes any request he may have difficult to refuse and he was so articulate and humble about his experiences at war. It is hard for me to imagine a situation so decimated that bigamy and incest are surmountable obstacles. And, yet, the suggestion remains that Charles' mixed blood may have been Judith's greatest objection. Thanks for playing. Robt
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (43 of 43), Read 12 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short ( Date: Wednesday, January 27, 1999 08:38 AM Robt: Excellent observation, I think, that Sutpen represents "the terrible price exacted from a life lived by force." Reminds me of one of my favorite American philosophers, the Eagles' Don Henley, who wrote in a song that "every form of refuge has its price." This applies, I've found, to virtually every aspect of life. And I'd sure hate to pay Sutpen's bill in that regard. >>Dale in Ala. From: Dick Haggart ( Date: Thursday, January 28, 1999 12:46 AM A belated comment on Absalom, Absalom which I read in snatches between botched golf shots in Arizona. At first it seemed to me that Faulkner almost lost it in that first part of the book: that this work's density almost exceeded the critical Schwartzwald Literary Limit -- that degree of prosal compaction at which a written volume begins to exert such a powerful, irresistible beam of confusion that even ideas themselves cannot escape the page into the reader's mind. In the worst such cases, the reader is suspended, for eternity, hanging over the open page, right at the Schwartzwald Radius, doomed to spend all time grasping after the meaning of the words swimming before his eyes. But that's only on the first reading; a couple of times through it and you realize it's not Faulkner's writing that fails. It's your mind, that of the reader, where 'the limit' exists. Faulkner is doing what God created him to do or, perhaps, exercising the gift for which Satan got his soul, since, it seems to me, Faulkner's writing is simply too good to be of this earth, and further, since God would likely disdain such straightforward proofs of his existence, that Satan, the eternal scene-stealer, seems the next most likely candidate. But whatever deity or demi-deity must be called down to explain it, in the end you must admit that this is among the very finest prose ever written by a human hand. For one short, illuminating example, towards the end of the book, I refer you to the narrative description of the climactic discovery of Henry Sutpen and the burning of the house: from Harvard to Mississippi, from viewpoint to vantage point, from character to chimera, the view swirls like a scene shot on a boom-camera, dipping, twisting, turning, peering at everything, from every angle, first in three dimensions, then in four. And all so effortlessly done. All so complete, so easily done. Your stomach literally does flip-flops as you experience this narrative traverse. We've seen Faulkner do this before, of course. Examples abound in The Sound and the Fury of his almost frighteningly sinuous narrative style. But, in Absalom, Absalom he does more: he creates an entire novel that is written in nesting circles of elliptical construction. The process is neverending in this novel. Like one of Benoit Mandelbrot's fractal images, the theme and story, with infinitely beautiful variation, are carried down to the finest level of detail, and back up again, without losing a beat or a nuance. I'm sorry I missed the discussion on this one. I'm lucky to have carved out even an hour to post this -- business and family press on the schedule daily. But I simply had to say something about this truly extraordinary book that along with the other Faulkner I've read here on Constant Reader has fundamentally changed my appreciation of literature and what constitutes great writing. Other authors have occasionally touched me as greatly as Faulkner, but none, I think (except possibly Cormac McCarthy, as a close second) so Consistently as Faulkner. So: thanks again, Steve Warbasse (Faulkner's and Absalom, Absalom's tireless cheerleader) and the other people on this board who started me out on this reading adventure. What a simply magnificent experience. And, in closing, might I suggest a few more subjects for discussion on this book (or subjects for a couple of years of post-graduation consideration, perhaps) that have occurred to me: --To what degree is Faulkner's Sutpen an intentional metaphor for the American pioneer? --Is Faulkner's south, confounded by conflated issues of race, money and pride, an intentional metaphor for America itself? --To what degree is Absalom, Absalom a marxist novel, or perhaps more aptly, a novel of inverse dialecticalism (the inherent conflict leads to conflict which leads to degradation, which in turn leads to new conflict....) --What are the political messages of this novel? Was Faulkner intentionally writing a political novel at all? And with all of that, goodnight. Dick P.S. I liked the book.
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (45 of 46), Read 15 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Robert Armstrong ( Date: Thursday, January 28, 1999 09:26 AM Dick, Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!!!!! Robt
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (46 of 46), Read 3 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Jane Niemeier ( Date: Thursday, January 28, 1999 08:33 PM Wow Robt and Dick, Those were wonderful notes to ponder. I have posted my thoughts about Sutpen, but I don't think he is a metaphor for the American pioneer, just because he flew so high and then crashed after the Civil War. Most pioneers just barely scratched out a living. Sutpen seemed to have a biblical need to produce a son, and not just a son, but a white son who would take his place. He did have Henry, and I guess I don't understand why he didn't confront Charles to save Henry and Judith. Although Sutpen created his plantation out of nothing, he seemed to let things happen when it came to his family. Robt and/or Dick, what do you think? Jane From: Dick Haggart ( Date: Friday, January 29, 1999 10:32 AM Jane: I was thinking more of the strong, dominating western man, entering onto the land and killing everything in sight, chopping down on the trees, subduing the forces of nature, etc. Certainly Sutpen's story is not set in any traditional 'pioneer' frame -- it's old south all the way -- but my thought was, notwithstanding all the Spanish moss and Betty Davis eyes in the antebellum moonlight, are the themes of conquest and subjugation, crippled by the fatal flaws of racial hatred, sufficent to make the novel relate to a larger American, and not merely southern (I know, many people say the south is part of America, but that's a separate discussion) theme. Dick
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (48 of 50), Read 7 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Robert Armstrong ( Date: Friday, January 29, 1999 12:47 PM Dick, The theme works for me when applied to American conquest excesses. When Faulkner fingered it in his neck of the woods, he identified that aspect which is operative across the continent. He's certainly in synch with BLOOD MERIDIAN. It echoes in the tamer, more legal carnage of the "it's nothing personal" business ethos of piggy big corporations even. Gimme, gimme, gimme, and when I get I am SOMEBODY by virtue of what I got regardless of any other criteria -- is not an unknown American value. Again, your original post just blew me away. Robt
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (49 of 50), Read 4 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dick Haggart ( Date: Friday, January 29, 1999 01:28 PM Robt: Thanks for the kind words. Writing *about* Faulkner is damned difficult I think. His prose is so beautiful, the material so simultaneously powerful and intricate, that any specific comment tends to end up floundering around, as you try to follow one of his threads along, exploring all the twists and turns. But, like kid with a watch, I just end up with pieces all over the place. So, instead, I tend to fall back on the big canvas, the big brush, and just refer to whole sections of the book, saying, kind of like that little cartoon guy in the Dire Straits video of Money for Nothin': "Looka dat, looka dat...." accompanied by a woeful shake of the head about how far my writing is from what Faulkner produced. "Do I not have fingers, like you? Do they not strike the keyboard, like yours? Cut me, do I not bleed?" Well, they may not be Faulkner's fingers, but at least they're a damned passable imitation of Liam Neeson's. Dick
Topic: ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner (50 of 50), Read 3 times Conf: CONSTANT READER From: Dale Short ( Date: Friday, January 29, 1999 01:58 PM Dick: A transcendent Faulkner note, indeed. I saw a documentary about Beethoven once, and a music scholar said that there are moments in Beethoven's symphonies when he "reaches up to touch the hand of God," and I would submit Will F. does much the same in prose. In fact, the opening paragraph of ABSALOM, ABSALOM has long been a touchstone of mine in that regard, and at one time, before my brain's warranty expired, I had committed it to memory, along with Dylan Thomas's "Fern Hill," as examples of what writers of their caliber have left us. Keep on Faulknering, >>Dale in Ala. From: Jane Niemeier ( Date: Friday, January 29, 1999 09:19 PM Sir Richard, Maybe Sutpen would fit the description of an industrialist like J.P. Morgan or John D. Rockefeller in his ruthlessness, but he doesn't fit my personal picture of a pioneer. When I think of pioneers, I think of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Pa and Ma and Mary. That poor family could barely master the elements. When I am feeling greedy at Christmas, I remember how thrilled Laura was to receive an orange and a penny. Most pioneers lived lifes of desperation. Sutpen did not until after the Civil War. My father's family has been in our country since the early 1700's, so they qualify as pioneers. They were the poorest of the poor, and they did not come over on the Mayflower and become Boston Brahmins. Jane


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