Often when I listen to an audiobook, I wonder whether I'd have felt differently about it had I read it. That's the case here, unfortunately. I'm just not sure how much of a difference.
This is my first Faulkner, and while there were aspects that I definitely liked about the book, my overall feeling is one of frustration. Maybe that's sort of intended -- certainly the characters felt their share of frustration. But, if so, I am not sure that my frustration is the intended type. It was less out of identification with the characters than impatience with the story. I felt like it was always on the edge of Something Happening, even when things were happening, if that makes sense. There was so much repetition, especially in the thought processes of the characters, that at times, it was almost maddening. "I have to do something. I have to do something. Something will have to be done."
Yep. Got that the first time. Let's go on and do it now.
Maybe it was the reader's style that made it so frustrating. He read the words, and did the accent, but there was no real emotion or life behind them. It was all sort of monotone. Every single character was the same. It was like every single person in the story was in a fog of depression, or that they were so beat down that they were just plodding along like a tired old workhorse. Nobody ever raised a voice. Nobody ever showed any emotion, at all as far as the voice performance went, even when their actions spoke much, much more loudly.
Rather than Miss Burden asking Joe to pray with her in an imperative, desperate kind of begging, it was just a flat, toneless statement. "Pray with me." "No." Again and again. That's just one example. It was hard, very hard, for me to identify with any of the characters, when they all sounded exactly the same. It didn't help that there were multiple storylines and timelines all interwoven into the story. At one point, I was so utterly confused by this that I listened to a section 3 times before realizing there must have been a shift in the story, and to just go with it. I didn't recognize any of the characters, the setting, anything, and with everyone sounding like they'd been given highball glasses of NyQuil, it took me a while to catch up and realize that I was in the midst of a flashback.
I can't really say that I liked any of the characters... but I didn't dislike them either. Surprisingly, I felt myself feeling sorry for them. It was like they couldn't help being what they were, and what society has made them within society itself. It's ironic to me that I use the phrase "they couldn't help being what they were", particularly with Joe Christmas in mind, because I recently got into a "heated discussion" with someone close to me who used this phrase to describe a mixed race child. But I don't mean it in the same way, that he (Joe) can't help being mixed race. I mean that he can't help being rebellious, antagonistic, nihilistic. He can't help these things, because his life has shaped him to be those things. When just the rumor of a "taint" in the blood will ruin any chance of living a life not filled with hatred and ignorance and meanness, you take those things and fend off the world with them.
This was a sad book, and one that, while I can't say that I enjoyed (for reasons stated above) has made me think, not only about the situations that humans create to give them opportunity to hate and hurt others, but also about the opportunities that we miss for accepting people for who they are.
Anyway, I digress. I think this is a case of me liking the message much more than the messenger. Maybe next time I'll just read the letter, rather than letting the Morose Singing Clown read it to me.