I had been meaning to read this book for ten years, and it took me three tries to finally do so.
My first attempt was in early high school around age sixteen—by choice, not as an AP English class requirement as some probably had it forced upon them—and while at the time I found the first section (Benjy's narrative) to be riveting and beautiful, I was probably too young and immature to appreciate the notoriously challenging second section which involves Quentin's stream-of-consciousness college experience. I got burnt out on this section and moved on.
The second time around was roughly a year ago, only a few days after my daughter was born—NEWSFLASH: wrong time to read a novel that requires significant focus. Again, loved the first part, became overwhelmed by section two.
A few weeks back—older, (maybe) wiser, and equipped with some meager level of higher reading comprehension—I picked it up again and found myself captivated, flying through it. There are not many books to which I would give three chances. One shot, maybe two, is normally sufficient for me to know if I'm going to like something or not. Granted, in this case the issue was not a question of the book being good or bad, but me not being in the right time of life and mindset to handle it well. And that first section kept me coming back. If you've not read the book, it's really something special.
At its heart, The Sound and the Fury is the story of people; some of them despicable, some of them tragic and painfully sad, but all of them vividly real. The only other author I have read whose characters seem to have actual heartbeats is John Steinbeck, and of course he and Faulkner both made the process of writing authentic humans seem effortless. The dialogue comes easy and often seems irrelevant (though rarely is when it comes to Faulkner), but the beauty is in the way it rolls along in the natural and imperfect way that we actually speak.
Faulkner was writing in an era when use of the N-word was rampant (used mostly by the more wretched White characters in this case and framed in a clearly negative, derogatory context) and he frequently uses phonetics in his characters' dialogue, but from this perspective, roughly 85 years since it was published, these elements give a richer and perhaps more accurate presentation of the time, terrible and racist though it was. He writes the 1910's and 20's of the South with all its yellow dusty grit and shabbiness while keeping the sad and depraved attitudes of men of the era on display.
The story of the decline of the once-prosperous Compson family is told through four main voices (and perhaps a few others that sneak in from time to time); Benjamin, or Benjy, the mentally disabled man who is the youngest of the four Compson siblings; Quentin, the tortured and melancholy second-oldest attending Harvard; Jason Compson III—an absolute bastard—the oldest male and inheritor or his dead father's household; and Dilsey, the aging black female servant to the Compsons who also raised the children.
The narrative jumps between a number of different unspecified timelines, often with no warning except that some of these switches are in italic font. Each of the four main narrators can be unreliable, as they are presenting certain events from their own perspective and (possibly skewed) memory. Bits and pieces of others' dialogue cut in, sometimes dropping the reader in the middle of a sentence, and it is not always immediately clear who is speaking, or to whom. I personally found that the best method for reading this novel was to not get too caught up in trying to figure out what was what or keep it all in my head from these convoluted passages, but simply to keep moving forward and eventually context or further revealed information brings clarity to what is happening on the whole. This process is fascinating and infuriating at once, but I must say it makes for a unique reading experience.
This book is brimming with wordplay, double meanings, and irony, and I guarantee I only picked up on a small fraction of all that is probably there to be found. Faulkner's mastery as an author is on full display, and it is a wonder how a person could write a novel of this scope and complication without getting twisted up in their mind and going crazy. But again, it isn't worth reading just because it is a unique literary challenge, the strength of the novel is clearest in the realness of the characters.
This is already a modern classic, so you should hardly need my recommendation. There is incredible value and insight to be taken from some of these "older" books. So take the time, make the effort, read some Faulkner. I think you'll come out the other end enlightened.