This is the first William Faulkner novel I’ve read — I remember reading the short story “The Bear” as a high school assignment, and enjoying without being particularly inspired by it (a common experience for me at that time). I knew Faulkner experimented with stream of conscious writing, a genre that’s always given me difficulty (he writes with a growing awareness that he is incriminating himself as a lazy, passive reader), so I was surprised to find “The Sound and the Fury” to be a much easier read than “Ulysses” or “Mrs. Dalloway.” Perhaps Faulkner being an American writer using distinctly American idioms made the novel more accessible to me than the works of his Anglo-Irish contemporaries. It was a challenge at times to keep up with the frequent shifts in time and perspective at the novel’s beginning, but after each shift took place I found I could orient myself fairly quickly to the altered narrative environment. I rarely felt disoriented, hardly ever feeling I had just startled awake outside a noisy bar wondering where I was or how I had gotten there (a feeling that strikes me on just about every third page whenever I read Joyce). I feel it will take me a couple-few readings to get the full sense of the Compson family’s tragedy, but I can say that I found “The Sound and the Fury” far more enjoyable and inspiring than most other literary masterpieces I’ve read.
He was back to feeling normal, just as he knew he always would even while at his worst. “It will be different this time,” he told himself, priding in his determination to correct his behavior even as he knew there was no way he could fulfill this promise. That was part of the thrill for him, knowing that for all his sincere good intentions, he was going to fail.
Go back to your perceptions of your shackled liberty
Return to the comforts that help you think you are free
Go back to the peace of mind denial brings
Free of the thoughts from which uncertainty spring
Go back to your hearth, your fire, your drink,
Keep clear of the thoughts that make your courage shrink
Go back where you are safe, and when you are there,
Let me know which of your dreams cause the most scare
He had felt giddy after inhaling the whippits, curious to experience the depth of the new high, followed Dan’s damp body to the back room where a few others gathered hungrily over a bed.
Double-J’s hand struck him in the chest, held. Shaking his head, he pushed Bernie back away from the door as it closed behind Dan.
Bernie swore. Double-J slapped him.
“For once, can you let go of the competitive crap? We’re not on the fencing strip right now.”
Double-J swore. “Listen! Nitrous oxide’s one thing, but what’s going on there, you’ve got no business with.”
“You’re one to talk.”
Double-J pushed Bernie against the wall. The noise in the back room stopped.
“I’m telling you, this doesn’t have anything to do with you and me, or Annie, you hear? Yeah, they and I are going back there soon as I throw your ass out of here, but this has nothing to do with hypocrisy. Like it or not, I know you, have for years now, as well as the losers back in that room. They’re low-lifes, but they’re not junkies — I’ve seen enough of people to know who’s gonna turn out to be users. Those guys, they’ll get high, they’ll kick around for a few years after graduation, but they’ll get straight some day, so whatever they do now is what the hell.
“I know the users when I see them — there’s a need in their eyes, and when they get high and realize they’re just as empty as they were before, they try again, hoping to get it right. And they’ll never get it right. Those are the people who wind up in the gutter.
“You don’t want to hear this, but you’re one of those people. Nitrous oxide — whatever. But if you get on the stuff, you’ll never get off it. You might walk out of here and find someone else to get you high — fine, whatever, do what you want with your life. But I won’t be the cause of your ruin.”
“I need to feel mad for a while,” he said. “Not crazy, as in insane, unable to relate to reality. I need to feel a touch of madness, to recognize that reality is inherently insane, that all my attempts to bring order to chaos is doomed to failure. Madness is a celebration of the absurd, a recognition of our powerlessness. And I will come out of my madness as the same, rational person I am now. But for a little while, I want to be mad. It is an act of honesty.”
He felt antsy, busy but not productive, thoughtful but not intelligent, energetic but not motivated, concerned but not anxious.
He was quick thinking and decisive, able at a glance to diagnose, with uncanny accuracy, the root cause of a problem, and the most appropriate action to correct it. He became known as someone who was good at putting out fires, which is how he earned the nickname Fireman — a title he accepted with pride in his achievement, even if it came with the knowledge that, like real-life fire fighters, his position was taken for granted as a kind of public service, one that had to be honored yet not rewarded.
Advance. Advance. Extend – lunge. Always extend first, get the right of way, lunge and hit. Again. Back to engarde. Advance. Advance. Retreat. Extend – lunge. Good.
Florescent lights hovered over the cafeteria, buzzing in rectangular banks. Butch arrived for his second practice and saw Coach Dan standing on a ladder under one of the hovering humming banks.
“Ah! Just in time,” said Coach Dan enthusiastically as he saw Butch enter. “Over here, please.”
As Butch approached the ladder, Coach Dan called “Catch,” and dropped a yellow ball and some string in his direction. As he reached to catch what he now recognized as a tennis ball, he realized the string was connected to it.