15 January 2017

Book Review: Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

Perhaps it wasn't a wise decision to pick up this book. I must say, from the outset, that I didn't like it. See, I haven't read Faulkner before, so I was looking for a book to begin with, and this was recommended to me. I must say that I did not enjoy the experience.

See, many people compare the structure of this book to the onion. You peel the story, and as you peel off layers, the story becomes clearer and clearer. It is about 380 pages long, and within the first 100 pages, you would have no idea what is happening at all. I remember sitting in a train traveling from Berlin to Poznan and shaking my head, since I was 60 pages into the book, and I still cannot figure out what was going on. I guess Faulkner was writing using the stream of consciousness method, and it happens that the narrator turned the tap quite open that the stream was gushing out like a flood.

Nevertheless, I continued. After all, I never stop in the middle of a book and quit reading. I always finish my books.

And somehow, this book is one of those exceptions, where as I read further, things became clearer. Names I have seen before started appearing with clarity, and now you realize who had sex with who, who killed who, and who married who.

That being said, I still would say that I learned more about the book from reading the last 5 pages than the 370-something pages that came before it, as these final pages were the Chronology of the events and Genealogy of the characters that appeared in the book. Come to think of it, that was slightly annoying.

After all, my purpose in reading novels is to be temporarily transported to an alternate universe so that I can temporarily escape my commute to and from work. My purpose in reading novels is not for my brain to be turned into mush.

So yeah, I did not like this book. The only thing I liked about this book was the theoretical aspect of it; if you want a book that has an unusual writing style, if you want a book that you could read in order to write a dissertation about, then pick this one. Otherwise, you're just confusing yourself.

If you want to know about the plot, well, there's a poor white guy. He wanted to be rich. He got married, and had a child, but rejected these people when he learned that they were part Black. This later returns and haunts him.

I give this novel 2 out of 5 stars. It's not for me. I probably won't pick up another Faulkner for a while. He doesn't seem to be an author I like. I'll probably go back to Latin American magical realism for my next book.

See my other book reviews here.

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