It’s because she wants it told, he thought, so that people whom she will never see and whose names she will never hear and who have never heard her name nor seen her face will read it and know at last why God let us lose the war: that only through the blood of our men and the tears of our women could He slay this demon and efface his name and lineage from the earth.
—-William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!
So, about a month ago my Difficult Reading Book Club started in on Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. We finished it up last week – it certainly makes the cut as a difficult book – but I made it through relatively unscathed.
And this week we started in on the second tome in our Faulkner journey – Absalom, Absalom!. I am now three chapters in. I had heard a lot of talk about how difficult a book it is – but after The Sound and the Fury I’m finding the second book quite a bit easier to read and understand. Now, there are sentences that run on for pages (although Ulysses by James Joyce has a 4,491 word sentence in a soliloquy, The Guinness Book of Records lists the longest proper sentence as one from Absalom, Absalom! at 1,287 words – I haven’t reached it yet), the story is frames within frames within frames, and the language (is wonderful) is difficult… For example I made a note of one phrase on page 53:
presbyterian effluvium of lugubrious and vindictive anticipation,
Ok… I know all those words… but I never thought of seeing them strung together in one place like that.
Oh. Seeing that phrase that I had highlighted reminded me of something. I bought a paperback copy of the book, plus a Kindle copy. I then discovered something I never knew about reading on a Kindle. I have been reading books on my Kindle for well over a decade – hundreds of books. During all this time I have been highlighting passages that I wanted to remember. Only this week did I discover that there is a web page:
That contains all the highlights (and notes) that I have made in all those books over all those years on all my devices. It’s pretty damn amazing. Looking through it is like going back in time. There are books in there I didn’t remember reading until I perused the feedback I input at the time – then it came rushing back.
I am now going through these highlights and hand copying the ones that still mean something to me into my commonplace book. Cool! Also a huge waste of time… but it is what it is.
Well… better go read. I’ve heard that chapter Four is a doozy.