Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Ripples of Memory

Absalom, Absalom! 

Absalom, Absalom!

“Maybe nothing ever happens once and is finished. Maybe happen is never once but like ripples maybe on water after the pebble sinks, the ripples moving on, spreading, the pool attached by a narrow umbilical water-cord to the next pool which the first pool feeds, has fed, did feed, let this second pool contain a different temperature of water, a different molecularity of having seen, felt, remembered, reflect in a different tone the infinite unchanging sky, it doesn’t matter: that pebble’s watery echo whose fall it did not even see moves across its surface too at the original ripple-space, to the old ineradicable rhythm”  ― William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!

Memory. That is remembering the past, your family, the culture of family and place. That is in and of the essence of this memorable novel. We find it in the wisteria:

"Do you mark how the wistaria, sun-impacted on this wall here, distills and penetrates this room as though (light-unimpeded) by secret and attritive progress from mote to mote of obscurity's myriad components? That is the substance of remembering---sense, sight, and smell" (p 115)

This is a story of a man, Thomas Sutpen, and other men and women whose lives formed the history of a place and a time--a sometimes dynasty, as told by several narrators including Miss Rosa Coldfield and Quentin Compson (whom you may remember from The Sound and the Fury).
The memory of the events surrounding the ferociousness of Thomas Sutpen is told through fabulous stories, conjecture, discussions, and arguments. It encompasses the history of generations, the strength of women to survive, and the impact of slavery on their way of being.

Told with the poetic beauty of Faulkner's magnificent prose this is a novel to be read and reread; savored as you meditate on the meaning of these people and events and how they resemble those you may remember from Greek or Shakespearean tragedy. Above all it is about Faulkner's idea of the South and that of his characters, especially Quentin, the young Harvard student who proclaims:

"'I don't hate it,' he said. I don't hate it he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark: I don't. I don't! I don't hate it! I don't hate it!" (p 303)


Ruth said...

I've not read any Faulkner, yet. I do have The Sound and the Fury on my TBR for next year (or the year after). Is Sound and the Fury a good place to start w/ him?

Brian Joseph said...

I have only read Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. This book has been on my radar for awhile. Based on your excellent commentary I think that I should read this one soon. The quote that you posted is outstanding and it is thought provoking.

James said...

That is a great question. While difficult due to the "stream of consciousness" style The Sound and the Fury is one of Faulkner's best novels. It was my first and I can recommend it only if you are willing to negotiate the difficulties of style - it is certainly worth the attempt. If you have read Virginia Woolf or Joyce you should be able to handle Faulkner.

James said...

This is one of Faulkner's best. I would also recommend The Sound and the Fury and Light in August.

Ruth said...

Oh, I see. I have read four or five of Woolf's, and I really struggled...maybe not so much because of her stream of consciousness. I'm not really sure. But I'm willing to give Faulkner a try, nonetheless.