The Sound and the Fury

Book Review

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I must admit reading Faulkner is a bit of a challenge. I didn’t know how big of a challenge until I started reading The Sound and the Fury.

Reading challenging material has it rewards however, and I’m glad I did. Here are some of my thoughts about this strange and enchanting novel.

First, the title. It is from a quote by Shakespeare from his play, Macbeth: “To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow/Creeps in this petty pace from day to day/To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools/The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.” Act 5, scene 5

The idiot in this case has a double meaning. Shakespeare is referring to man writ large but Faulkner is referring not only to all mankind but the first section of the novel is narrated (told) by Benjy, a mentally retarded (idiot) family member. It takes a while to figure this out. Faulkner brilliantly takes us inside the head of this mentally retard person and his tale is told in a sort of a primitive poetry.

The Sound and the Fury is divided into four parts. The first three parts are written from the points of view of the three Compson brothers. The fourth and final section is told by an omniscient narrator.

The time-line is a little confusing as each section is told out of joint, so to speak, as follows:

Part 1. April 7, 1928 (Holy Saturday) – Benjy

Part 2.  June 2, 1910 – Quentin

Part 3. April 6, 1928 (Good Friday) – Jason

Part 4. April 8, 1928 (Easter Sunday) – Omniscient Narrator

Faulkner wrote Quentin and Jason’s sections, he says, to clarify Benjy’s section. “I had already begun to tell it through the eyes of an idiot child (Benjy). I had to tell the same story through the eyes of another brother.”

According to Faulkner, in his introduction to the book, he set out deliberately to write a tour-de-force. It began with the image of the little girl’s (Caddie) muddy drawers. “I was just trying to tell the story of Caddy, the little girl who had muddied up her drawers and was climbing up the pear tree to look in the window where her grandmother lay dead.”

Faulkner writes of the south which he describes as old, since dead as opposed to the north which is young, since alive. The Civil War killed the south. There is a thing called the new south, but it is not the south. Only southerners have taken horse whips and pistols to editors about the treatment or maltreatment of their manuscripts.

I was born in the south, but I have had the privilege of living all over the United Sates. The last twenty years of my life I lived in the northeast before returning to my roots in Kentucky. My friends in the north would ask me what was it I liked about the south? I like everything about the south, I would answer. But I could always tell they were deeply suspicious.

In Jean-Paul Sartre’s review he states that a critic’s task is to define the writer’s metaphysics. He says it is immediately obvious that Faulkner’s metaphysics is time. Man’s misfortune lies in his being time bound. “…man is the sum of his misfortunes. One day you’d think misfortune would get tired, but then time is your misfortune.” This, then, is the real subject of the book: “…time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when time stops does time come to life.”

Faulkner frequently refers to the “branch” in his novel, and remarks that the branch was to “become the dark, harsh flowing of time.”

The best description of the book also comes from Sartre: “Faulkner’s vision of the world can be compared to that of a man sitting in an open car and looking backwards at every moment, formless shadows, flickering, faint tremblings and patches of light rise up on either side of him, and only afterwards, when he has a little perspective, do they become trees and men and cars.”

Faulkner does wonderful things with dialect and idiom. A couple of examples:

“I wuz huntin’ possums in dis country when dey was still drownin’ nits in yo pappy’s head wid coal oil, boy. Ketchin um, too.” Louis

“Dat’s de troof. Boll-weevil got tough time. Work ev’y dayin de week out in the hot sun, rain er shine. Aint got no front porch to set and watch the wattermilyuns grow and saty’dy don’t mean nothin a-tall to him.” Uncle Job

And finally, as finely wrought a piece of prose as I have ever read describing Dilsey:

“The gown fell gauntly from her shoulders, across her fallen breasts, then tightened upon her paunch and fell again, ballooning a little above the nether garments which she would remove later layer by layer as the spring accomplished and the warm days, in color regal and moribund. She had been a big woman once but now her skeleton rose, draped loosely in unpadded skin that tightened again upon a paunch almost dropsical, as though muscle and tissue had been courage and fortitude which the days or the years had consumed until only the indomitable skeleton was left rising like a ruin or a landmark above the somnolent and impervious guts, and above that the collapsed face that gave the impression of the bones themselves being outside the flesh, lifted into the driving day with an expression at once fatalistic and of a child’s astonished disappointment, until she turned and entered the house again and closed the door.”

The past takes on a super reality. The present moves along in the shadow, like an underground river. Everything is absurd. Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BLUE NIGHTS

Book Blurb

Blue nights

I loved this book. Wish I could write like Joan Didion. Blue Nights strikes a different tone than A Year of Magical Thinking but nonetheless it is a stunning read. It is a memory book and a book of loss. The loss of her child Quintana Roo. The loss of her husband John Gregory Dunne, and her own loss. Her perceived loss of her faculties and physical agency. She laments her frailty and the oncoming shocks that flesh is heir to. Although I must say she is in quite good form here.

The Traveler

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Benn Bell, Nairobi, Kenya

“He did not think of himself as a tourist. He was a traveler. The difference was partly one of time. Whereas the tourist hurries back home at the end of a few weeks or months, the traveler, belonging to no more one place than to the next, moves slowly over periods of years, from one part of the earth to another. It would be very difficult indeed to tell anyone, of the many places he lived, precisely where he felt most at home.

Another important difference between the tourist and the traveler is that the former accepts his own civilization as his own without question; not so with the traveler, who compares it with the others and rejects those elements he finds not to his liking.”

-Paul Bowels, The Sheltering Sky

 

 

Mystery

 

What mystery lies beneath the mist enshrouded tombs?

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The dead die hard,  they are born astride a grave

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A stranger’s shadow finds its way across the yard by dead reckoning

He meets a deadend

He is deadbeat meat for worms

That’s a sensible cadaver

Palmer Cemetery 4 (1)

There never was such a season for mandrakes.

Shall we linger here until perdition caches up to us?

The Cemetery is a cockpit for comic panic

Sob heavy world, sob heavy.

 

 

LUST

The editors of WordPress have chosen “Lust” as the word of the day for my daily inspiration. I am happy to accommodate them with my own interpretation and inspired rendering of this volatile, combustible, and knocked out loaded word.

I take you to the lust capitals of the world, two sister cites really, which gives an extra added dimension to the word lust, if you catch my meaning.

So here we have visual evidence of the lusty nature of these two great cities: Philadelphia and Paris.

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A Philly stripper goes into the Candy Store for stripper supplies.

 

“Of all the worldly Passions, lust is the most intense.”

-Buddha

 

 

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Purple Orchid, Philadelphia

“She was perfect, pure maddening sex, and she knew it, and she played on it, dripped it, and allowed you to suffer for it.”
–  Charles Bukowski

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Ozz Gentleman’s Club, Philadelphia

“Lust is the source of all our actions, and humanity.”
― Blaise Pascal

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Club Ozz, Philadelphia

“I live for sex. I celebrate it, and relish the electricity of it, with every fibre of my being. I can see no better reason for being alive.”
― Fiona Thrust

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Sex Shop on South Street in Philly

“The world is divided into those who screw and those who do not. He distrusted those who did not—when they strayed from the straight and narrow it was something so unusual for them that they bragged about love as if they had just invented it.”
― Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

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Leather and Latex, Philly

 

“Lust’s Passion will be served; it demands, it militates, it tyrannizes.”

-Marquis de Sade

 

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Moulin Rouge in Paris where girls who can Cancan

“Lust is to the other passions what the nervous fluid is to life; it supports them all, lends strength to them all ambition, cruelty, avarice, revenge, are all founded on lust.”
–  Marquis de Sade

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Pussy’s Gentleman’s Club, Paris

“I can resit anything but temptation.”

– Oscar Wilde

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Sex Shop, Paris

“There’s something here, my dear boy, that you don’t understand yet. A man will fall in love with some beauty, with a woman’s body, or even a part of a woman’s body (a sensualist can understand that) and he’ll abandon his own children for her, sell his father and mother, and his country, Russia, too. If he’s honest, he’ll steal; if he’s humane, he’ll murder; if he’s faithful, he’ll deceive.”

-Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

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La Diva, Paris

 “Only the united beat of sex and the heart can create ecstasy.”

-Anais Nin

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New Girl’s, Paris

“To have her here in bed with me, breathing on me, her hair in my mouth – I count that as something of a miracle.”

-Henry Miller

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Paris Museum of Erotic Art

 

All photos by me.

 

The Gates of Hell

“Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”

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Th Gates of Hell, Auguste Rodin

The Gates of hell is a sculpture by Auguste Rodin that depicts a scene from Dante’s The Divine Comedy. There were three bronze casts made; they reside in The Musee Rodin in Paris, The Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, and the National Museum of Western Art in Ueno Park, Tokyo.

This photo was taken in Philadelphia.

Bury

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“I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.”

-William Shakespeare, from Julius Caesar

ORANGE BLOSSOM SPECIAL

The day I met Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash At Newport

One evening in the bleak December back in the 1970’s I was sitting in one Louisville’s famed dens of iniquities, Rhiney’s Go Go Bar and Lounge. The Rick Hipple Duo was playing for our listening enjoyment. Rick Hipple was on the the organ and sang vocals while his partner Lou Stanfield played the drums. I was there with my girlfriend, Lynn of the pretty green panties.

The band had just finished playing a rousing version of Dixie, Of course back in those days whenever a band played Dixie everyone stood up took off they hats and put their hands over their hearts.

Lynn and I had just re-seated ourselves and I was trying to get the waitress’s attention for another round of drinks when the door of the establishment flew open and out of the cold night a man dressed in black and a whole entourage of people trailing behind him filed into the bar.

The man in black approached the bandstand and wrestled the microphone away from ole Rick Hipple and said into the mic with a bit of a slur, “Hi, I’m Johnny Cash, how do you do!”

He looked back at the astonished face of Rick Hipple and said, “Orange Blossom Special,” which Rick commenced to playing.

Now these were the days before Johnny was acquainted with June Carter which is to say he was still a pretty wild character. And that character was on full display that night. He was all liquored up on that roadhouse corn and he stood there swaying in the spotlight slurring his words and trying his best to get through that song.

“Well, I’m going down to Florida and get some sand in my shoes…”

Well, that was the night I met Johnny Cash. A night I will never forget.

 

 

 

 

Traces

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I love to see the traces of the places you have been

it gives me hope in the possibility of seeing you again

the things you leave behind like a band for your hair

reminds of the fact that once you were there.