It seems to be my month for revisiting. First is was Camus, now Faulkner. Bill was much the more rewarding, if more difficult. Why Absalom? Well, like so many of my reading choices, it stemmed from the experience of a friend/neighbor (also named Bill) who shares my love for Faulkner, but was having a hard time with Absalom, Absalom. Don’t blame him, of course. Many of us had struggled mightily. I’ve always considered this the most difficult of the canon. And hold it and As I Lay Dying as my favorites among favorites. I thought maybe the years gone by would make the novel more accessible. Surprise. They did.
Maybe the fashion for elliptical storytelling has grown enough that the revisiting of relationships and events with different points of view, different voices speaking, has become commonplace enough that it doesn’t seem as strange and confusing now as it did back when. Maybe I’m just smarter (doubt that.).
Whatever the reason(s) I was not as mystified by the switches among points of view of Quentin, Rosa, Mr. Compson, Grandfather Compson and who they were talking about at a given moment. Wasn’t always standing in the light, mind you, but was always much closer than I remember being in the past.
I’m not going to recapitulate the plot and characters here beyond saying that it is a spectacle beyond compare in all of literature. From Haiti to New Orleans to Jefferson, MS, to Oxford, MS, to Cambridge is the geography. From 1833 to 1910 or so is the time period. From zero to infinity is the breadth and depth of human experience and spirit is the scope.
I came to appreciate even more what a unique and powerful place Faulkner holds in our literature and our history. You could trace down influences, and plenty of have done so, form Joyce to Proust to beyond, but Faulkner (and the cheese) stands alone. Many are like him, but only–to use a biblical analogy. Appropriate for this novel.–through a glass darkly.
Monumental work from a monumental author.