Faulkner's Firsts: Soldiers' Pay & Mosquitoes

KeskusteluWilliam Faulkner and his Literary Kin

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Faulkner's Firsts: Soldiers' Pay & Mosquitoes

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Muokkaaja: marraskuu 19, 2009, 10:43 pm

Since we'll try to avoid these two novels on here, never touching them (unless you simply must!) as a group, those who have had the misfortune to read these, say yer words here!

Wait. Has anyone read these? Not many, I presume.

I recently finished both of these as part of my Quest to Understand the Faulknerian Way of Life, and, well, I won't go too into my opinion on Soldiers' Pay, you can see it all here. Just garbage. Good ideas, terrible, just fucking painful execution.

Mosquitoes. I enjoyed Mosquitoes. Not bad, not too good, just a decently solid Lost Gen. novel. I 'spect I'll get around to attempting a review of it later tonight or tomorrow: try to get that out of the way before I get too far into Bill's first Yoknapatawpha story, Flags in the Dust.

There's really just not a lot to say on 'em. Just lack the complexity and scope of Faulkner's later works.

(Sorry if anyone saw the triple post. ERROR.)

marraskuu 20, 2009, 9:44 am

Yes, I agree - these are very early works and his genius isn't in them. Flags in the Dust, though, has its entertaining moments. One of the things that is particularly interesting about it is that it is his own family he is describing. I had the pleasure of meeting his great nephews about 30 years ago when we were all young, and they are exactly like the young men in the book.

marraskuu 28, 2009, 5:23 pm

First, I love that there is an entire "Salon" devoted to Faulkner. I decided, for some reason I don't recall, to read the first 9 of his books this year...I've only read 5, but I still plan on getting through all of them at some point (hopefully).

Regarding Faulkner's first three novels, I would have to politely disagree with the first post. I found Mosquitoes an utter waste of time. I could barely read it, and ended up sort of skimming through. Actually, if there was a point to the book, then I completely missed it.

I think both Soldier's Pay and Flags in the Dust have some good moments. Soldier's Pay has a rather generic plot and set of characters, but a couple of scenes I felt were written amazingly well. As for Flags in the Dust, there is such potential there. It could have been a great story, but it feels unfinished; aspects of the plot were just dropped about half way through.

I also finished Sound and the Fury thinking "why didn't I read this years ago?" I started it in high school, probably once in college too, and never could get through the beginning. I know some people feel it is overrated, but out of his earliest works, it is definitely the best. However, I sort of think it is the type of book that should be read all at once or at least in large chunks b/c otherwise it is easy to get side-tracked or confused.

marraskuu 28, 2009, 6:41 pm

#3. With hindsight, you may have found The Sound and the Fury a bit easier if you'd read Absalom! Absalom! first and the relationship between Quentin and Caddy Compson.

Just my opinion.

marraskuu 28, 2009, 8:45 pm

#4 Knowing the S+F story adds a LOT to the Absalom experience, a lot more than if you read them vicie versie.

marraskuu 29, 2009, 11:44 am

#5. With all due respect, how do you know that?

marraskuu 29, 2009, 12:33 pm

B/c I've been in two classes that taught S+F, I just didn't read it. :D

marraskuu 29, 2009, 9:42 pm

I believe, although I can't remember, since it was all so long ago, that I read sound and fury first, and later absalom. there is a richness to seeing Quentin's back story, I think, in this reverse chronological order. Did Faulkner know all that about Quentin when he wrote sound and fury?

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 1, 2009, 8:48 am

That's an interesting question, kokipy. I suspect Faulkner knew Quentin Compson full well after writing The Sound and the Fury. And he used what he knew about him to good purpose in telling the Sutpen saga in Absalom. Factual details were like bits of clay to Faulkner; he'd use them where and as he felt he needed them to sculpt the story he was telling. And he wasn't too concerned about consistency. Real people aren't always consistent, and as Faulkner pointed out himself, his characters grew over time, even when he wasn't writing about them. "{those characters} are in my mind all the time. I don't have any trouble at all going back to pick up one. I forget what they did, but the character I don't forget, and when the book is finished, that character is not done, he still is going on at some new devilment that sooner or later I will find out about and write about."

If you read Fury alone, you get a somewhat narrow view of the disintegration of the Compson family; in Absalom the rot that brought them down is put into a much broader perspective, and so is Quentin's grasp of it. Whichever novel you start with, you aren't finished until you've read the other one, and then gone back to the first one...it's a circular process, not a straight linear process. That's why I have a little problem with the chronological reading plan. Faulkner's original readers had no other choice, of course, but we have no need or reason to go about it that way. He certainly wasn't presenting us with a chronological narrative; all the elements were boiling around in his head all his life.

joulukuu 1, 2009, 9:27 am

Interesting comments, Linda.

"...it's a circular process, not a straight linear process. That's why I have a little problem with the chronological reading plan."

What order would you suggest?

joulukuu 1, 2009, 3:11 pm

Well, I was referring to the entire scope of Faulker's works, not just those two books, when I said I have a problem with reading them in chronological publication order. I don't think either The Sound and the Fury or Absalom, Absalom! make a good introduction to Faulkner. People tend to be intimidated by the issues of form and point-of-view in those two, and if they can't get past that, they give him up. Reading Sartoris or Intruder in the Dust, or The Hamlet gets you into his world and characters. Once you've done that, it doesn't matter so much which of the two masterpieces you read first. They complement each other. I actually don't remember for certain, but I think I started with Absalom, Absalom! because it was on the reading list for an American literature survey course I took in college. I believe the only Faulkner I had read before that was The Hamlet and some of the short fiction.

joulukuu 1, 2009, 5:07 pm

Probably it doesn't matter which you read first, as between S & F and A,A. Whichever way you go about it, you'll have a powerful experience. I find that when I reread A/A it is rich to have that reading informed by what I know of Quentin from S&F, and the same also pertains for when I reread S&F.
I think that using Quentin to discover and then tell, and retell and retell again the Sutpen story from so many different perspectives was an astoundingly, blindingly excellent artistic choice.

joulukuu 1, 2009, 6:29 pm

I think that using Quentin to discover and then tell, and retell and retell again the Sutpen story from so many different perspectives was an astoundingly, blindingly excellent artistic choice. I agree...and it becomes more obvious the more you read it that Faulkner knew exactly what he was doing, and each perspective serves a specific purpose.

joulukuu 1, 2009, 8:41 pm

I had no idea that those two books (S and F, and A A) were so interconnected. Guess I haven't done my Faulkner homework. This is exciting though b/c I enjoyed the Quentin sections and did want to know more about the Compson family drama.

helmikuu 1, 2014, 3:21 pm

Funny how no one heaps love on Mosquitoes. I selected it for Faulkner February in the 75er group. I don't think I'd ever even heard of the book before...and an unknown-to-me Faulkner book is a pearl beyond price.