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.