Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Cumbersome, Delightful Writing Style of William Faulkner

I quit reading William Faulkner’s The Hamlet for the second time. I first quit reading part of it a few years ago because it was difficult to understand. I got further this time and quit because of the content it was getting into.

I was disappointed, because I was enjoying Faulkner’s writing style much more this time, coming to appreciate it.

Characteristics of his writing style: good characterizations, fun stories within the overarching story, long sentences, and a large vocabulary filled with obscure words. I'll give you some examples of the latter two.

My friend Mandy and I have a long-standing inside joke over the word “indefatigable” and its forms, and we have on occasion notified each other when we've come across the word in our reading. I bet I came across that word (or "indefatigably") at least half-a-dozen times in The Hamlet. That's got to be a record.

In fact, I was coming across so many unusual words that for a spell of my reading I started jotting down words I didn’t know the meaning of. I found six in just a span of 30 pages:

tumescence (p. 147)
sybaritic (151)
suppurant (168)
meridional (171)
meretricious (173)
debouched (174)

As for long sentences, try this one from p. 19 on for size:

When he passed beyond the house he saw it—the narrow high frame like an epicene gallows, two big absolutely static young women beside it, who even in that first glance postulated that immobile dreamy solidarity of statuary (this only emphasized by the fact that they both seemed to be talking at once and to some listener—or perhaps just circumambience—at a considerable distance and neither listening to the other at all) even though one of them had hold of the well-rope, her arms extended at full reach, her body bent for the down pull like a figure in a charade, a carved piece symbolising some terrific physical effort which had died with its inception, though a moment later the pulley began again its rusty plaint but stopped again almost immediately, as did the voices also when the second one saw him, the first one paused now in the obverse of the first attitude, her arms stretched downward on the rope and the two broad expressionless faces turning slowly in unison as he rode past.

I’ll probably try another Faulkner sometime and hope for better content.

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