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Published in , Absalom, Absalom is considered by many to be William Faulkner s masterpiece Although the novel s complex and fragmented structure poses considerable difficulty to readers, the book s literary merits place it squarely in the ranks of America s finest novels The story concerns Thomas Sutpen, a poor man who finds wealth and then marries into a respectable family His ambition and extreme need for control bring about his ruin and the ruin of his family Sutpen s story is told by several narrators, allowing the reader to observe variations in the saga as it is recounted by different speakers This unusual technique spotlights one of the novel s central questions To what extent can people know the truth about the past I would marry this book if our proud nation didn t define marriage as being only between a man and a woman. Apologies for previously having some snobbery in this review that I wrote 10 years ago which I have now edited In the interim 10 years I have had children and now have to read books about cat mermaids so karma has bit my ass aggressively Let s just enjoy thisand opposite Quentin, Miss Coldfield in the eternal black which she had worn for forty three years now, whether for sister, father, or nothusband none knew, sitting so bolt upright in the straight hard chair that was so tall for h Apologies for previously having some snobbery in this review that I wrote 10 years ago which I have now edited In the interim 10 years I have had children and now have to read books about cat mermaids so karma has bit my ass aggressively Let s just enjoy thisand opposite Quentin, Miss Coldfield in the eternal black which she had worn for forty three years now, whether for sister, father, or nothusband none knew, sitting so bolt upright in the straight hard chair that was so tall for her that her legs hung straight and rigid as if she had iron shinbones and ankles, clear of the floor with that air of impotent and static rage like children s feet, and talking in that grim haggard amazed voice until at last listening would renege and hearing sense self confound and the long dead object of her impotent yet indomitable frustration would appear, as though by outraged recapitulation evoked, quiet inattentive and harmless, out of the biding and dreamy and victorious dust Her voice would not cease, it would just vanish The picture above was used on the first edition dust jacket published in 1936 by Random House It is the image I had in my mind of Sutpen s Hundred the plantation built by Thomas Sutpen The hundred stands for a 100 square miles, the geographic size of the plantation 100 square miles of land is equivalent to 64,000 acres In other words it is a BIG PLACE The gist of all this is that Thomas Sutpen built himself an empire These plantations were so large that it required an unbelievable amou The picture above was used on the first edition dust jacket published in 1936 by Random House It is the image I had in my mind of Sutpen s Hundred the plantation built by Thomas Sutpen The hundred stands for a 100 square miles, the geographic size of the plantation 100 square miles of land is equivalent to 64,000 acres In other words it is a BIG PLACE The gist of all this is that Thomas Sutpen built himself an empire These plantations were so large that it required an unbelievable amount of human labor to keep them productive Mechanical invention had not advanced enough to provide the machines that the plantation owners needed to work such a large tract of land When you ownland than you can work and there is not a labor pool available to sustain your industrywhat do you do Well, we know what they did, but what should they have done Around 1800 when cotton became king is when the demand for slaves escalated exponentially The potato famine in Ireland happened in 1845 which brought thousands of displaced Irish to the United States, but this wave of immigration came too late to keep the South from becoming too economically dependent on slavery Now I m not advocating turning the Irish immigrants or the Chinese immigrants who followed into slaves, but wouldn t it have been a better solution for our history if those plantation owners had adopted the flawed, but still better than slavery, system of tenant farmers Eventually technology would have caught up with the needs of large land owners which would have freed up the tenement farmers for the industrial work that made the North so strong Maybe the availability of that labor pool would have encouraged manufacturing in the South Some of the better tenement farmers would have become land owners themselves as plantations fell out of the hands of Southern aristocratic families due to the untimely death of a patriarch or because of mismanagement Not a perfect world, but a better world and maybe, just maybe we would have avoided a costly Civil War for which the South to this day has never fully recovered But then would Southern literature be the same I have a grudging respect for Thomas Sutpen As a boy he was asked to deliver a message to a wealthy plantation owner in Virginia He watched the plantation owner lying in a hammock with his shoes off while a slave fanned him Thomas was asked to go to the backdoor to deliver his message He will never forget the slight He lays awake at night thinking about what he can do about it He does a stint in the West Indies and comes back to the United States, specifically Mississippi, with blacks speaking a strange language He wasn t even a gentleman He came here with a horse and two pistols and a name which nobody ever heard before, knew for certain was his own any than the horse was his own or even the pistols, seeking some place to hide himself Quentin Compson is the thread that sews the plot together As Rosie Coldfield and his father and a host of other people tell him stories about Yoknapatawpha County his head becomes filled with a convoluted history of his birthplace Quentin had grown up with that the mere names were interchangeable and almost myriad His childhood was full of them his very body was an empty hall echoing with sonorous defeated names he was a being, an entity, he was a commonwealthQuentin spendstime with Rosie Coldfield than he really wants to, but she has memories that he needs to hear to fill in the gaps of the story in his headQuentin.sitting in the buggy beside the implacable doll sized old woman clutching her cotton umbrella, smelling the heat distilled old woman flesh, the heat distilled camphor in the old fold creases of the shawl, feeling exactly like an electric bulb blood and skin since the buggy disturbed not enough air to cool him with motion, created not enough motion within him to make his skin sweat The families who have lived in this county in Mississippi for generations are also the same people who regarded this new comer, Thomas Sutpen, with bemusement When he successfully rooked a drunken Indian out of some land they clucked about that, but then as he continued to gain influence and wealth, building a comfortable living out of nothing they started to worry This opportunity had been there for them their whole lives, but it took a man with daring from outside the county to see the potential or have the immorality to make it happen He took a wife descended from a good family and the community showed their disapproval by not showing up to the wedding Undaunted, barely noticing that the community had turned against him, Thomas Sutpen forged forward siring a son and a daughter and building the life for himself he had coveted as a boy in Virginia The Civil War happens Almost every able man is called up to serve Thomas s son Henry is away from school and has become friends with Charles Bon who because of the encouragement of his mother has, at the advanced age of 28, decided to go back to school He meets up with Henry and as the plot advances we find out that Charles Bon is Henry s half brother Charles becomes engaged to Henry s sister Judith and of course she is also his half sister As you might expect this causes much consternation in the family I really didn t think that Charles loved JudithIt was not Judith who was the object of Bon s love or of Henry s solicitude She was just the blank shape, the empty vessel in which each of them strove to preserve, not the illusion of himself nor his illusion of the other but what each conceived the other to believe him to be the man and the youth, seducer and seduced who had known one another, seduced and been seduced, victimised in turn each by the other, conquerer vanquished by his own strength, vanquished conquering by his own weaknessI think he saw Judith as the only way of achieving his own birthright view spoiler Henry kills Charles to keep him from marrying Judith even though he really loved himwelllike a brother hide spoiler The story is much larger than what I ve touched on here The book is riddled with incredible passages that would balloon this review up to megalithic proportions if I were to share them all with you The layers of the story are frustrating and magnificent I equate this book to going to a family reunion and spending time with a great aunt, an uncle, and a grandparent and asking them each the same question The story is told with lots of repetitiousness because the narrators know a lot of the same information and yet, from each storyteller is gleaned a fewnuggets because each person who is solicited for the story has a unique perspective and is in possession of different pieces of the life puzzle.I had moments where I wanted to deconstruct this story, strain out all the redundant information and write this story out in a linear fashion, but then it wouldn t be a masterpiece It would just be another book telling a story about a slice of Southern history By writing this book, this way, Faulkner not only preserved a piece of Southern history, but also preserved the tradition of Southern oral storytelling I found that I read this book best late at night after my family was in bed and the only sound that I could hear were the goldfish coming up for air in our fish tank I would always begin reading intending to only read a chapter, but once I landed in Jefferson, Mississippi I was soon caught up in the intricacies of the writer s web I found myself reading chapter after chapter as if Faulkner s hand was giving me a gentle push to continue Well, Kernel, they kilt us but they aint whupped us yit air they I know this book is difficult, but my suggestion is to find a quiet place, while reading this book, so that you can achieve almost a zen like focus If you can relax enough you might find yourself sitting on the porch with Quentin and hearing the Southern cadences of the voices of the people narrating this tale Sometimes we all just need to let people tell us a story Bonus points to those that can actually smell the wistaria If you wish to seeof my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at How am I to put all the pain of this novel into a review The pain of the suffering characters The pain of the reader suffering with them There were moments when I felt I couldn t take it any, when the carefully built puzzle added another piece to the beautifully decorated and carefully furnished hellscape.What makes you able to talk about that kind of pain, then, I could ask, following the path of Quentin and Shreve, the two dialogue partners who preside over the story in the story, tryi How am I to put all the pain of this novel into a review The pain of the suffering characters The pain of the reader suffering with them There were moments when I felt I couldn t take it any, when the carefully built puzzle added another piece to the beautifully decorated and carefully furnished hellscape.What makes you able to talk about that kind of pain, then, I could ask, following the path of Quentin and Shreve, the two dialogue partners who preside over the story in the story, trying to carve out truth in the muddle of prejudice, pride, hatred and occasional passion mostly unaccompanied by love Anger, I d say Anger at the fact that a monster like Sutpen can walk the earth, admired as a godlike creature by the people who share his racist and misogynist revenge and entitlement thinking Anger that he has the power to put children into the world to CREATE like an evil mirror of the Creator of the Southern religion whose only purpose is for his glory and honour to be perpetuated in a pure, male line Female descendants don t count, and neither do sons if they have any trace of African American ancestry Some women are just about good enough to give pleasure if the occasion arises, but their children are not even good enough to acknowledge their existence in front of the world Anger drove me, and one quote broke my heart So it s the miscegenation, not the incest, which you can t bear As did the fate of Milly Jones and her baby GIRL A human being, for Goodness Sake No, not a vessel of Sutpen genes lacking y chromosomes Sutpen differs from his biblical source in that his heart is not broken like that of David confronted with Absalom s death He is merely offended in his right to perpetuate his meaningless string of genes in a line of white only male gorillas He pushed one old man over the edge and found his end in the most suitable way His curse lives on, and on, and on, way beyond the magnetic closing lines, answering the question put to Quentin, why he hates the South I dont hate it he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark I dont I dont I dont hate it I dont hate it Repeating the mantra in the same way a desperately caring person says I don t care, I don t care, I don t care But we do, and therefore books like this hurt A lot