A Faulkner Project

I’m going to indulge myself over the next few months in a Faulkner project. I will be starting with his first novel, Soldiers’ Pay, and reading my way through to Absalom, Absalom!, in chronologically, omitting only Mosquitoes (because I’ve read it before and it’s not that good) and Pylon (because I’ve read it quite recently). Only three of these I haven’t read before – Soldiers’ Pay, Light in August and Absalom, Absalom!, and partly the project is a preparation to read these latter two great novels (in my conception, as someone who hasn’t read them, Faulkner’s finest novels). The other reason to undertake this project is to address (challenge) certain theories (prejudices, if you will) about the progression of Faulkner’s early career – particularly from Sartoris down to Light in August; a period in which Faulkner is in general quite experimental, before settling down into the familiar style of his middle to late works.

I’ve always considered myself a late Faulkner person, and have tended to be dismissive in particular about The Sound and The Fury and As I Lay Dying. In fact, the first two Faulkner novels I ever read were As I Lay Dying and Sanctuary, and from my impression of them I’ve no idea why I ever continued with him. Nowadays, I tend to view Faulkner as the greatest of all American novelists (Melville has somewhat fallen in my estimation recently), and the greatest English-language novelist of the twentieth century (perhaps of all time). So yes, I quite like him.

First up then, Soldiers’ Pay.

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9 thoughts on “A Faulkner Project

  1. A great project. As I Lay Dying is the best one, though.

    Are you going to include the big book of short stories? I have never all of the novels but only a few of the short stories.

  2. I will reserve judgement on As I Lay Dying until I read it again.

    I thought of the short stories; I borrowed them from the library many years ago and read about half – but I really can’t remember them too clearly (except there was one about flying planes). The book is expensive though, and rare to find secondhand (I’d certainly have bought it by now, if it was available).

    I have ordered a biography though, so I can fit it around the chronology (especially since my interest is in Faulkner’s development). I was particularly attracted to it by the one bad review on Amazon which suggested that it had an “overly complicated style”.

  3. “I have never all the novels,” what gibberish. I’ve read the novels, but never the stories.

    If a style is not overly complicated, what is the point of it?

  4. I did manage to decipher your meaning. I was thinking actually that after this I should maybe read the Snopes trilogy too, which would just leave A Fable unread (I always like to feel I’ve not exhausted a writer’s writing, although lately I am for the first time discovering the possibilities of re-reading).

    I thought if the biographer’s style was overly complicated then he’d probably have a good appreciation of Faulkner.

  5. Interesting project. I was just looking through The Sound and the Fury at the weekend, thinking about starting it, and also as a way of dodging reading Bloano.

    I would tend to agree more with Tom about As I Lay Dying.

    I’ve been keeping an eye out for Pylon since you mentioned it here a good while ago, and I recently bought Sanctuary. I am a long way from exhausting Faulkner’s work.

  6. We’ll see about As I Lay Dying; as a 17/18 year old, I was quite unimpressed. At least I remember something about it though; whereas I can remember virtually nothing about Sanctuary.

    Pylon is great. It’s really up there with The Mansion as the pinnacle of Faulkner’s work.

  7. I’ve read most of the novels, but so many of them were so long ago that I can’t speak very very intelligibly – let alone intelligently – about them. “Light in August” is the one I enjoyed most. But then again, I thought from the title that it would be undemanding reading for a beach holiday – something light for August.

  8. The copy of Mosquitoes I read I came across in a hotel in southern Spain. How it had got there, I have no idea. I suppose it is probably more of a beach read than Light in August.

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