Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Sound and the Fury

How often do you put off reading a book because it is intimidating? You've been told it's great so often that you find yourself "saving" it for when you're ready.

According to The Modern Library, The Sound and the Fury is the best book of the 20th century that I've never tried to read. So I read it, and I wonder why I felt intimidated for so long.

I have been told that the first chapter of The Sound and the Fury is one of the most difficult pieces of literature ever produced. As a stream-of-consciousness tour-de-force, the fist chapter ranks with Molly Bloom's 80 page sentence in Ulysses and Lily Briscoe's meditations on art in To the Lighthouse.

Careening through the thoughts of a thirty year-old with no sense of time was not easy to read, don't get me wrong. But isn't it fun to be disoriented at the beginning of a book, and then slowly to right yourself? The clues are there, most of them repeated enough times that they were recognizable when they surface in later chapters, restored to their chronological place. It wasn't all that different from watching a movie like Memento or Inception. Coast it out and pay attention; it'll all come together.

Maybe I just love puzzles too much. Because The Sound and the Fury presented such a spectacular little puzzle that when I finished the book, the first thing I wanted to do was pick it up again and re-read that first chapter.

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