I’m glad I’d previously read “Light in August” by William Faulkner or I’d have given up on this. It is worth sticking with it, but it is hard work. There are four parts told by different narrators. The first is told by Benjy, a drooling manchild, continually threatened by Jason with being sent to the lunatic asylum. Benjy is prone to anguished bellowing when he meets frustration.
His name’s Benjy now, Caddy said.
How come it is, Dilsey said. He ain’t worn out the name he was born with it yet, is he.
Benjamin came out of the bible, Caddy said. It’s a better name for him than Maury was.
Large parts of the story are told in a stream of consciousness style, lacking punctuation and presenting a disorienting mix, there is no fixed time frame in Benjy’s mind and it is difficult making out the characters or even if they are male or female, black or white. The Compson family is cursed with a trait of madness, Jason is the first sane Compson since before Culloden and he is a nasty brutal man.
The second part is told by suicidal Quentin, the family has made great sacrifices so he might be educated at Harvard. Quentin is disengaged as a student and despairing at the loss of his sister Caddy’s innocence to the cad Dalton Ames, and his own inability to protect her.
despair or remorse or bereavement is not particularly important to the dark diceman
The third narrator is Jason, who works in a hardware store, he sees himself as the family breadwinner, bemoaning supporting six lazy n—-rs, in addition to his racism, Jason is a misogynist (a bitch is always a bitch). Jason is not above cheating his niece Miss Quentin out of her inheritance and locking her in her room to stop her fooling around.
In the final part, the narration shifts to the third person, it tells the tales of the servants, especially Dilsey, an old black servant who has seen the fall of the family and her nephew Luster charged with the day to day care of Benjy.
This is a book calling out for a re-reading, to put the pieces of the puzzle together, but as a reader I rarely re read a novel. Only a couple of times, by accident have I reread a novel, not realising when I started I had read it previously: The Shipping News by Annie Proulx and The Great Pursuit by Tom Sharpe. It is even rarer that I deliberately reread a novel, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is the only novel I recall rereading intentionally, even books I loved like To Kill a Mockingbird and Poisonwood Bible I have yet to reread.
My rating 4 out of 5