2007: 148. Absalom, Absalom!

“From a little after two o’clock until almost sundown of the long still hot weary dead September afternoon they sat in what Miss Coldfield still called the office because her father had called it that -…”

Absalom, Absalom!  William Faulkner

This is our September book club selection, and it just blew me away.  I was dreading it a bit, since I struggled with The Sound and the Fury, (though I quite liked As I Lay Dying), and while I appreciated the book, I can’t say that I loved it.  Absalom, Absalom! is a whole different story - not only do I think it’s the bees knees, but I understand The Sound and the Fury more having read it.*  This is, if not the great American novel,** certainly the great novel of the South.  It’s all here - honor and decay, and what it meant to lose that war.  It is just killer.

It does take a while to get into the groove of what’s going on here, with Sutpen and Judith and Henry and Le Bon (and I am being deliberately vague, because the whole point of the novel is to unpick the layers of the story and get to the truth of it), but once you start peeling back the story from its broad unclear beginning to the crystallized truth at the end it, it is like nothing I’ve read before.  And so, while parts drove me bonkers - like, does everything have to be so damn gothic and overblown?? I must say that this was one of the best books I read this year, even though I feel that I’ve only skimmed the surface of what is going on here.  Killer read.

A quote, from page 178 of the Vintage Paperback edition (talking about Sutpen’s motivations):

“His trouble was innocence.  All of a sudden he discovered, not what he wanted to do but what he just had to do, had to do it whether he wanted to or not, because if he did not do it knew he could never live with himself for the rest of his life, never live with what all the men and women that had died to make him had left inside of him for him to pass on, all the dead ones waiting and watching to see if he was going to do it right, fix things right so that he would be able to look in the face not only the old dead ones but all the living ones that would come after him when he would be one of the dead.”

Recommended for: People who want to understand America, especially its South; people who haven’t read Faulkner and don’t know what the fuss is about. 

*Which begs the questions why the Modern Library, in all its wisdom, would put The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying in one volume, rather than Absalom, Absalom! given that Quentin Compson is a character in both.

** My money is on Gatsby, or possibly Huck Finn.

Date/Place Completed: 9/19/07; Atlanta (how appropos! Only Jackson would have been better - or New Orleans!)

Categories: Fiction; Book Club

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017