Monday, April 19, 2010

The roof is on fire

Current book: Absalom, Absalom!
Pages read: 278 - 378 (end)

Nothing really new in these 100 pages, except at the very end. Faulkner spends most of them recapping the story of Henry and Charles, only adding the fact that Charles had told Henry that he was Judith's brother long before Thomas came along and did it. Thomas, however, did tell Henry that Charles was part African-American. The miscegenation, apparently, was what Henry objected to when he killed Charles, not the incest. (Which is pretty fucked up, really, but taboos are strange things that are defined by the weirdest parts of culture, after all.)

Anyway, after all this, we finally get the conclusion to Quentin's story, which is that Rosa drags him out to the Sutpen house when she's initially telling him the story, and there he and she end up finding Clytie and Jim Bond, Charles Bon's grandson, as expected, but also, rather shockingly, Henry Sutpen. It turns out Judith didn't kill him, and Clytie has been secretly taking care of him for years. Later, when Quentin has gone off to school, Rosa goes back out to the Sutpen place to get Henry and take him back to town, and Clytie flips out and burns down the house with herself and Henry in it. (Have you noticed how literary novels love to burn down houses? Jane Eyre, Rebecca, Gone With the Wind...I'm sure there must be more.) Jim Bond escapes and flees. The end, pretty much.

I don't have anything new to say. Faulkner's trying to communicate that one person's tragic history is a tragic history we all share, and the South is doomed to repeat its mistakes until it learns from them. (Which it's still working on, in my opinion - then again, who isn't?) And yet, the craft with which he communicates this message is at once both impressively complex and inherently flawed. I understand why he gets literary respect for the intricacy and slow revelations of his prose, but I think his execution is lacking. Perhaps, since this is a later book, he's gone too far in the direction of complexity and thereby crossed the threshold into confusion, or perhaps he was doing something new in this book and hadn't yet mastered the technique, but either way I don't think it was quite successful. Not worthy of this list.

As a sort of post-script, apparently Quentin dies (Of fever from the climate of Massachusetts? Of the drama of the story he's just told? It's unclear, and, either way, obnoxious.) just after he finishes discussing this story with his roommate, but you only find this out if you read the biographical appendix at the end of the book. Which I think is cheap as hell.

1 comment:

  1. I don't give a flying flip about Faulkner. What I want to know is how did the Tagine turn out?



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