Yesterday I wussed out in a blog post. I wrote a line, and then deleted it, concerned of what people would think.
I was posting about how Folio Studios is releasing a special edition of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. It is special because it is color coded to indicate who is speaking and when they are speaking. One of the narrators of the novel, a mentally handicapped man named Benjy, is unreliable and difficult to follow.
Here is the line I wrote, and then edited out:
I am going to go out on a limb here and suggest that perhaps there is a problem with a novel that needs color-coded printing to understand what is going on.
I have not read The Sound and the Fury, but chances are if Faulkner were alive today he would have a difficult time publishing it. The market has changed. From Fed-Ex to the internet to cell phones to Twitter, we are now a nation of people with attention deficit disorder, unable to concentrate and demanding immediate gratification. Few adults have the time it takes to focus and read something like Faulkner’s novel. As I said yesterday, I read another Faulkner work, As I Lay Dying. I was on vacation. I could not have done it any other time. (By the way, it was a hilarious book, filled with black comedy about a dysfunctional family).
Last year my vacation book was The Tempest by William Shakespeare. I woke up every morning in Yellowstone before daybreak (in sub-freezing temperatures with grizzly bears lumbering past) to read it. After I came home from vacation I tried to read King Lear. That didn’t work out, too many distractions.
As I write this, I’ve been monitoring comments in LinkedIn to yesterday’s blog. There are two from folks who loved The Sound and the Fury, saluting it for its greatness. Both agree, however, that it was dense.
There is a difference, however, between books that require concentration and books that are skullbusters. I would love to say I have read James Joyce’s Ulysses, but it will probably never happen. Not enough vacation time. The aforementioned comments have convinced me that I need to read The Sound and the Fury. Thanks for the feedback.
Let me be an advocate, though, for clear writing in which people know what you are talking about. Symbolism is great, weaving in multiple plotlines—love it, but it is important to remember that we also need to tell a great story. If your novel needs color coding so the reader can figure out what’s going on, there’s a problem.
See ya’ later.