Saturday, March 23, 2013

Will I Ever Read Faulkner Again?

I was overwhelmed (in a good way!) by William Faulkner’s novels when I was in college and grad school. I read most of them – some for classes and some on my own: “The Sound and the Fury,” “As I Lay Dying,” “Sartoris,” “Sanctuary,” “Go Down Moses,” “Absalom, Absalom!” and more. I found them mesmerizing, maddening, inspiring, mysterious, enlightening. They made me feel I understood the American South in a new and intense way. Some years after college, I re-read a couple of the novels. But over the many years since then, whenever I have considered re-reading, or actually tried to re-read, one of his novels, I have been unable to do so. (I have posted here before about having the same problem with other books I valued and even loved when I was young.) It is not that I don’t still think the novels are monumental, classic, and groundbreaking. Of course I do. So the failing must be mine. I did enjoy reading, in the Spring 2013 issue of Threepenny Review, a symposium of seven writers’ thought-provoking and engaging short essays on their experiences with and responses to “Absalom, Absalom!” One quotation I was struck with was from an interview with Faulkner: “Interviewer: ‘Some people say they can’t understand your writing, even after they read it two or three times. What approach would you suggest for them?’ Faulkner: ‘Read it four times.’” So maybe I will try again.

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