Monday, April 12, 2010

The queen of spades

Current book: Absalom, Absalom!
Pages read: 7 - 80

I'm disappointed in Faulkner. This book is already clearly inferior to A Light in August; I'm bored with it and I'm only on page 80.

Basically, what we've got is the story of an old spinster (Your etymology for today: the word spinster comes from the act of spinning, because only a woman who wasn't married would have to spend her days spinning thread in order to support herself. Ta-da!), Rosa, being told from the point of view of a young man, Quentin, who's about to go to college, by way of Quentin's father, Rosa herself, and whomever else Faulkner decides he thinks he ought to include. It goes something like this: Rosa's father, Mr. Coldfield, lets his daughter, Ellen, marry a creepy random guy, Thomas Sutpen, who breezes into town one day with a wagon full of black servants and a French architect. This is apparently both suspicious and impressive, and over the course of the next several years, the town goes from wanting to run Sutpen out on a rail to grudgingly accepting him. So, eventually he ends up marrying Ellen, and they have two children, Henry and Judith. Rosa, Ellen's sister, who's born several years after Ellen is married, and is therefore a contemporary of her own niece and nephew, goes to live with her sister's family after Coldfield dies.

She tells this story to Quentin, as does his father, in a fashion that makes it clear that she feels that the lives of everyone involved with Sutpen were ruined by him, but we have no idea why yet. Ok, he's a little weird, I'll give you that, and he apparently makes his black servants fight each other for entertainment, but considering the atmosphere of the time period (total and complete racism), I'm not sure why that makes him such a terrible person in Rosa's (and the town's) eyes. Anyway, Henry and Judith grow up during the story, and Henry brings home a friend from college to whom Judith gets engaged. However, just before the marriage, Henry has a falling out with Sutpen, his father, and he and his college friend disappear. So, I think, does Judith, at least for a while.

That's about where I am, I guess. If this account sounds confusing, that's because the book is also confusing, and can't seem to find a steady timeline for itself. I've heard people make this complaint about Faulkner, but it wasn't apparent in A Light in August, and I'm annoyed to find that it is in this novel. Like I said before, I'm kind of bored already. I'd say it's because I don't care what happens (which is true, but not the main reason), but it's also because I already know what happens, since Faulkner had Rosa tell us in the first chapter, and seems content to spend the rest of the book filling in the details. Yuck. I don't like it when authors do that, for the same reason I don't like war novels - it's completely apparent what the point, the plot arc, and the outcome are going to be, so you spend the whole thing going, "Why am I reading this?"

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