Book #66: The Hamlet

I don’t want to be writing this entry. In fact, I haven’t written in several months largely because of this entry. I don’t know why, but I just don’t want to write about The Hamlet. I read it way back in July or August, and I didn’t want to write about it then either. It’s not because I don’t like Faulkner (I don’t all that much, though), it’s just that I really, really don’t like writing about his stuff. I have trouble connecting with his work in a way that gives me meaningful, tangible things to say about it.

Also, I swear I wrote a post about this book months ago, but I can’t find it anywhere and it’s not published, so I guess that was all a dream. Anyway. Here we go again. I will get caught up on this blog and I will start reading more. Here we go.

The Czech language doesn’t have articles. For those of you who can’t remember elementary school parts of speech (probably everyone; I had to re-learn a lot of stuff when I became a teacher), articles are those little connecting words that link nouns with other words (a, an, and the). It’s weird to think about a language not having articles. It seems so foreign to me (pun definitely intended). We need those.

But to my students, articles were a strange concept. They often had trouble figuring out which article to use or if they needed one at all. A large part of my job was correcting students when they said things like, “I haven’t got pen,” or, “I went to store yesterday.” One of the most common mistakes was mixing up “the” with “a/an.” They almost always referred to Prague as “the Prague.” Then there was my personal favorite – without fail, they referred to nature or the outdoors as “the Nature.” And Czechs love their nature, so I heard a lot about “the Nature,” to the extent that I’m not actually sure of the correct way to refer to it in English anymore.

Anyway, this is a long way of getting to the point that every time I think about The Hamlet, I feel like, really, it’s Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but some poor Czech student is making an article mistake.

But I did not read Shakespeare’s (The) Hamlet. I read William Faulkner’s The Hamlet. This is the first of three books he wrote featuring different members of the Snopes family. It details how they first came to Frenchman’s Bend and what the other, more established residents of the community thought of these outsiders who so quickly ingrained themselves in their town.

I’ve said this before about Faulkner, and I’ll say it again now: it’s the mark of a great writer when you really, really, really don’t like a book, but you still enjoy reading it.

I’ve felt that way about each of the three Faulkner books I’ve read. Maybe, in spite of how good he is, Faulkner just isn’t for me. I love how he creates such real, vivid people and such real places with his descriptions. His ability to take readers so deeply inside the heads and backstories of such a wide variety of characters is dizzying.

The scope of The Hamlet is astounding. It feels like one writer should not be able to pack so many different people and so much life, color, and detail into one book. But he does. The problem for me was that, unlike with As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury, The Hamlet didn’t feel worth the effort it took to slog through the detailed descriptions. The time it took to wade through the minutiae of Flem’s posture or the way Armstid limped didn’t measure up to what I was able to take away from The Hamlet.

Faulkner is a brilliant writer and I think people are write to consider him one of the greats, but it takes a certain type of person to really enjoy his writing style. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them.

Rating: ***
Up Next: The Magus


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