William Faulkner's dizzyingly complex, Lost Cause-dismantling 1936 novel about the rise and fall of a Southern plantation owner who "outraged the land" amid the Civil War is perhaps the most formidable Great American Novel one can tackle: it has the distinction of making Moby-Dick look accessible! But Absalom, Absalom! is not only a tour-de-force of modernist experimentation with its long, incantatory sentences and seemingly endless convolutions; it's also an inquiry into the nature of knowledge, historical "facts," and storytelling. As speculation mounts about the motives driving Thomas Sutpen's all-consuming "design" to create a lineage in Yoknapatawpha County, Faulkner pokes a finger in the eye of America's racial anxieties, asking why the fear of miscegenation might compel a man to violent, immoral extremes. Ultimately, the novel repudiates just about every aspect imaginable of the roseate tradition of Southern literature, or what Faulkner called the "hoop skirts and plug hats" vision of Confederate mythologizing that his own novelist great-grandfather, W. C. Falkner, helped establish in the postbellum era. Absalom, Absalom! is a novel that challenges us to question our inculcated ideas of how narratives communicate, forcing us to learn to read anew in exhausting but exhilarating ways.
Music by Loco Lobo.