I’ll be honest- up until last week I would have firmly placed myself in the “I hate William Faulkner” camp. I read some of his short stories in high school, was completely unimpressed, and swore that I would only read anything else he had penned under extreme duress.
I think needing to read the book to properly study for the comprehensive test that I need to pass in order to graduate college qualifies as “extreme duress,” doncha think?
So I bought the book. I started to read. And I was immediately transfixed. Not because my perception of Faulkner as a writer had been magically changed after the first page (no, I still thought he sucked), but because I was confused. Why did the book start off with the perspective of Benjy, the mentally challenged youngest child of the Compson family? How are the readers supposed to piece together what is happening when the timeline shifts from present to future in almost every new paragraph? What, exactly, happened to Caddy, the girl who smells like trees and was adored (to the point of obsession) by two of her three brothers?
The best way to get me caught up in a book is to give me a puzzle or a mystery to work out. This one- with the unreliable narrators and changing timelines- really kept me involved. I wasn’t bored while reading. I was frustrated, and confused, and the notes that I wrote in the margins definitely showed that (Example: “Why are there two Quentins? Seriously, bro, why would you give two different characters of different genders the same name? Dammit Faulkner.”).
But I was never bored.
I actually ended up being completely enamored with the book, and especially Caddy, the girl who drives the whole damn plot and is basically the heart of the book but never gets a chance to speak for herself. We never see from her perspective- we only see images of her from everyone else’s. It’s a frustrating and brilliant move on Faulkner’s part that leaves us as confused and entranced with Caddy as her brothers are.
So yeah. I really loved this book. My prejudices were completely unwarranted.
My apologies to Mr. Faulkner.