The Folio Society created a stir about a year ago when announcing their intent to publish the William Faulkner masterpiece The Sound and the Fury, in a limited edition printed in colored inks to differentiate the complex strands of the narrative. As the Folio Society points out, The Sound and The Fury “takes the modernist narrative devices of stream-of-consciousness, time-shifts and multiple changes of viewpoint to an unprecedented level of sophistication”, making it a very difficult book to follow. Though Faulkner had expressed a desire for such a colored ink edition to help the reader with the flow, this is the first time it has come to fruition. Rather than repeat it myself, Joe Whitlock Blundell, Production Director at The Folio Society, provides excellent background on how this book came to be — see here.
The Sound and The Fury is considered one of the great books of 20th-century literature. Having said that, let’s be honest…It is a bitch to read! The color coding for time leveling will certainly help, as will the extensive commentary (which “elucidates the numerous allusions, colloquialisms and ambiguities of the text”) from Faulkner experts Stephen M. Ross and Noel Polk. The commentary volume also provides a useful glossary, and an introduction by both Ross and Polk. The endpapers in the commentary volume show facsimiles of the letter written by Faulkner in which he proposes the colored-ink printing, and the original typescript of the first pages.
This Limited Edition has been a huge success, with only about 60 copies (of 1,480) remaining for sale as of the time of this writing. In hand, the book is nice size, has an excellent binding, with nice paper and very readable text. I was worried I would find the color distracting, but it is not — it really does help approachability especially with the handy bookmark reference right by your side. At $345 ($295 pre-release), this is one of the least expensive Limited Editions (LE) from The Folio Society (FS). That, along with the quality, makes it a no brainer for any Faulkner fan as well as those who appreciate American or modern literature, those about to embark on Faulkner for the first time, or collectors of FS LE’s.
William Faulkner (1897-1962) is considered one of the greatest American writers of the twentieth century. He won the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature and won the the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction twice, once for A Fable (1954) and again for his last novel The Reivers (1962). Besides The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner is best known for his novels As I Lay Dying (1930), Light in August (1932) and Absalom, Absalom! (1936). Modern Library ranked The Sound and the Fury sixth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century (As I Lay Dying and Light in August also made the list). His short stories are well thought of (see Faulkner’s Hunting Stories, reviewed on Books and Vines in a very nice edition from Limited Editions Club). Faulkner also wrote poetry and screen plays, contributing to Hollywood scripts for Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep and Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not. Faulkner was born and raised in Mississippi and his experience in and knowledge of the south is a major influence on his writing. Faulkner’s personal life was not as impressive as his work. It was full of binge drinking and a number of extramarital affairs.
As for The Sound and the Fury itself, the summary of the book from The Folio Society is better than what I could provide, so here it is:
In the novel’s four sections, each attributed a specific date, different narrators evoke the disintegration and decay of a once-proud Southern family. The book begins on a spring day in April 1928, with events recounted from the point of view of Benjy, a man in his 30s but with the mind of a small child. For Benjy each sight, word or action in the present propels him through his memories – his beloved sister Caddy as a little girl, his grandmother’s funeral, Caddy on her wedding day, arguments at the dinner table. The narrative shuttles back and forth through time, often evoking a scene in only a few lines. Through Benjy’s uncomprehending observation we gain a picture of a family in freefall, from wealth to poverty, from pride to shame, and from love to bitter division. As the book progresses we learn more – first through the eyes of Quentin (haunted, unhappy), then through Jason (spiteful, filled with resentment), and finally centring on Dilsey, the servant whose loyalty and faith is all that holds the household together.
The Sound and the Fury was first published in 1929, as Faulkner’s fourth novel. It was not immediately successful, but gained fame and critical success as Faulkner himself became more well known. Faulkner’s technique is what drives the critical success of the novel (and his writings in general). It is a novel of the American South, with themes of tradition versus modernism and corruption of morality.
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
I personally am not currently a huge Faulkner fan, finding his writing laborious (though occasionally gratifying); having said that this novel is well worth reading, and this edition from The Folio Society is the way to do so.
About the Edition
- Strictly limited to 1,480 copies, numbered by hand
- Printed on Abbey Wove paper using 14 different colours of ink
- Gilded top edge
- Quarter-bound in vermilion goatskin leather; the leather quarter-binding employs an unusual technique using split boards at front and back so that the paper sides can wrap around all four edges of the boards
- Blocked in gold
- Paper sides printed letterpress on Canson Mi-Teintes paper with type ornaments designed by Russell Maret
- Book size: 10¼” x 6½”, 320 pages
- Commentary volume
- Bound in buckram
- Blocked in gold
- 232 pages
- Both volumes presented in cloth-bound slipcase with inset leather titling label
- A bookmark is supplied with all colors and their matching dates, as well as line numbers marked along one side to facilitate cross-referencing between the text and commentary
Pictures of the Edition
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