Absalom, Absalom!

By William Faulkner,

Book cover of Absalom, Absalom!

Book description

This postbellum Greek tragedy is the perfect introduction to Faulkner's elaborate descriptive syntax.

Quentin Compson and Shreve, his Harvard roommate, are obsessed with the tragic rise and fall of Thomas Sutpen. As a poor white boy, Sutpen was turned away from a plantation owner's mansion by a black butler. From…

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Why read it?

4 authors picked Absalom, Absalom! as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

It took me two tries to finish this tremendously difficult novel about a father who desperately wants a son, and gets two. Considered by many to be Faulkner’s most challenging work, it defeated me on my first attempt. But I was captivated by this example of fatherhood gone obsessively wrong, so returned to it and soldiered through.

It was worth the effort. I hope I never find any commonality with the main character of this novel, and I’m not sure if I should take solace from Faulkner’s conclusion that we can never really understand another person, and may not want…

It purports to be about the causes and consequences of the Civil War—the novel traces Thomas Sutpen’s misbegotten “design” to build a plantation and a legacy on the foundations of racism and slavery. But I love it on account of the “happy marriage of speaking and listening” between freshman-year roommates Quentin Compson and Shreve McCannon, who reconstruct the story together.

Quentin is from Mississippi, Shreve from Canada, and most of what they talk about took place 50 years earlier. But nothing abrogates space and time like loving friendship and earnest storytelling, and by the end of the novel Shreve is…

This is about as powerful a novel as 20th Century America produced, and hit me like a ton of bricks. The book may be tough sledding at first—I was so enamored with Faulkner's brilliant language, I had to read Chapter One twice to understand it. But when you are finished with the novel's heavy drama and profound themes, you are satisfied. In this novel, each chapter has its own distinctive first-person narrator, each with his/her own unique, often-conflicting point of view. The book's gorgeous language thrilled me, while carving out each narrator's personality and character. The story's tension…

Faulkner’s greatest novel is less about slavery per se than about how thoroughly racism has warped America—its culture, its politics, its families—from the very beginning. It takes the quintessential American story—of a (white) man with a dream and determination, who pulls himself up by his bootstraps to become wealthy and powerful—and turns it upside down, little by little revealing how he has fundamentally misunderstood himself, his society, and even his own family. Thomas Sutpen’s ignorance around race is his—and, by extension, all of America’s—downfall, leading inexorably to violence and grief. It’s a dense, challenging read, full of point-of-view shifts, interlocking…

From Andrew's list on to make you rethink America.

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