A half hour of the most famous Southern historian discussing a man he knew, the best of American writers.
I visited Rowan Oak last Spring, I know William Faulkner’s work intimately, and I consider him the greatest American writer, bar none. Foote’s trilogy on the American Civil War is a beautiful read, but the fact he knew William Faulkner endears me to him far more than the screen time he stole on Ken Burns’ The Civil War, and make no mistake, he stole the commentary.
To me, as a fan of Faulkner’s writing, it’s interesting to hear Foote discuss it for many reasons. He considers The Hamlet his best work, but much attention is paid to The Sound and the Fury. What’s strange, or maybe staggering, to me, as a reader, a writer and a fan is that Faulkner wrote The Sound and The Fury in a matter of weeks, and he did it when he was 23. It remains a work I love, but also a work I hate that I couldn’t write, dammit. Among Faulkner’s work, it rests at the middle of the pack if I was ranking it as that reader, that fan – as a writer, it sits just below Absalom, Absalom! as the book that blows me away.
Absalom will never get the critical or popular reception that is now almost mandatory for Fury. My hunch, having read both books multiple times, is that no proper critic would ever cross Fury, and no proper critic would read Absalom. Fury is one of the most difficult reads out there, and Absalom is one of the most lyrical. What separates them in my mind is that Fury is a concept of form, and Absalom is concept of function – the prose wins the day in the former, but the story, the off-off-beat story rules the day with Absalom.
But then again, that’s just me.