Times they have a-changed, friends.
In today’s “image means everything” political climate, I can’t imagine the United States sending a drunken author overseas as an official ambassador. In the 1950s, though? No problem.
Over at Slate, Greg Barhisel discusses how, during the Cold War, many American authors traveled around the globe as ambassadors for the United States—meeting with foreign diplomats and dignitaries. Their purpose? To show that “America wasn’t just Mickey Mouse and chewing gum.” Read more
I guess this means I need to read The Sound and the Fury three more times to get it.
I really hated The Sound and The Fury.
And that surprised me. Faulkner’s a southern boy, he’s “my people,” so I really thought I would enjoy that novel.
But I think I would rather eat cold grits and 3-day-old scrambled eggs than read that novel again.
That said, if I ever choose to read The Sound and the Fury again, I have a better option than the traditional versions of the novel.
This week, I’m revisiting some of my favorite posts from 2011 while I take a one-week break from writing and simply focus on reading and spending time with my family. This post was originally published on May 11, 2011. 101 Books will return live on Monday January 2. See you then!
What just happened?
That’s the first question I asked myself after reading the final word of Infinite Jest. And while that might seem like a bad question to be asking oneself at the end of a 1,000 page book, it wasn’t unexpected.
I’m not sure I could count how many times I asked myself “What just happened?” while reading David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece over the last six weeks. It happened, like, a bunch of times–enough to be qualified as a recurring theme in my head.
It happened enough for me to say Infinite Jest is supremely frustrating at times–the loose, non-linear plot, the $10 words, the pure effort that the book takes to read.
But is that the point? Is that what David Foster Wallace was after? Did he want to make you work your butt off to read this book?
Reading The Sound and The Fury helped me realize something important: This 101 book project is a lot like marathon training.
Over the course of the 16 weeks I trained, I made somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 to 70 runs. Every now and then, maybe once every 10 runs, I would step outside, walk down my driveway, and seriously consider skipping that training run.
I just didn’t want to put in the effort that day. I felt unmotivated and thought, What’s it going to hurt to skip one 5 mile run anyway? But I willed myself to put one foot in front of the other. And after about 45 minutes of running, I completed my mileage goal for the day.
Even if I was simply going through the motions–getting the “mileage in”–I still felt a sense of accomplishment, satisfied that I had fought through that desire to quit.
The Sound and The Fury was a lot like those training runs. No doubt, I went through the motions of reading this book. This novel is recognized as William Faulkner’s premier work. It’s ranked as the sixth greatest novel on the Modern Library list. It’s a classic in every sense of the word.
And now, after much weeping and gnashing of teeth, I can check book #27 off the list.
Ever wondered what true stream-of-consciousness writing looked like?
This passage comes from page 94 of The Sound and The Fury. Take it away, William Faulkner: