Friday, December 18, 2009

Aimless Reading: The F's, Part 3.2 (William Faulkner)

Absalom, Absalom
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Faulkner, William
Absalom, Absalom!

I bought this at Talking Leaves...Books, I think. It was a gift for Lori, who was reading through Faulkner a few years ago. It was one of those selfish gifts, through whose purchase I thought I might finally get around to reading a book I had intended to read for years. I think I have read the first page a thousand times, but I have never gotten to the second one. I can't explain why this is, as I have read 4 or 5 other Faulkner novels and loved them all. Someday.

Reading it again, I think that maybe I find the language a little suffocating, especially the piling on of adjectives in repetitive rhythmic patterns -- "long still hot weary dead" or "dim hot airless" or "dry vivid gusty" -- there's something, I don't know, affected, in these constructions, that gets on my nerves.

Here's the page I have read from Absalom, Absalom!:

From a little after two oclock until almost sundown of the long still hot weary dead September afternoon they sat in what Miss Coldfield still called the office because her father had called it that-a dim hot airless room with the blinds all closed and fastened for forty-three summers because when she was a girl someone had believed that light and moving air carried heat and that dark was always cooler, and which (as the sun shone fuller and fuller on that side of the house) became latticed with yellow slashes full of dust motes which Quentin thought of as being flecks of the dead old dried paint itself blown inward from the scaling blinds as wind might have blown them. There was a wistaria vine blooming for the second time that summer on a wooden trellis before one window, into which sparrows came now and then in random gusts, making a dry vivid dusty sound before going away: and 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.

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