Friday Thoughts: Zeitgeist, Faulkner, and The Prince

Friday Thoughts… a new weekly feature where I talk about stuff.  Excited yet?

I don’t know exactly where this series will take us.  Per my blogging goals for this year, I want to share more candid thoughts about reading – reading as an experience and as a part of life.  Friday, as the week winds down, seems like a good time to reflect.

This week I have been reading The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, as well as listening to The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli.  Both of these are new authors and new books to me, perhaps an over-ambitious start to the year.

As I get further and further into The Sound, I seem to be learning more about myself than Faulkner, which was not at all the intent.  For example, more than ever do I dislike reading dismal fiction, a la Thomas Hardy and, in a certain sense, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (though the latter wins me over every time).  The real world is gloomy enough; why should I read novels that hit me over the head with it again?

The current zeitgeist is full of fear, no matter where you live or where you are on the political spectrum.  This realization is something that’s followed me into the new year – not in a sense of personal fearfulness (it comes and goes) but rather in a cognizance of how society is operating within it.  Again, I find myself more and more seeking escapism, rather than realism, in fiction.  Is it silly to prefer fairy tale monsters over real-world ones?  I can’t apologize for trying to find some respite from the ongoing, permeating atmosphere of dread.

If Faulkner’s prose is harsh and provokes many a wince, then the soothing tones of Clive Catterall reading The Prince may explain my somewhat warmer reception to it.  I’ve long known the term “Machiavellian” to mean something Sinister and Bad; listening to this book has clarified it somewhat, since I see what is really being referred to is a kind of realpolitik – that is, making choices based on sheer logic rather than a moral code.  While Machiavelli hasn’t by any means persuaded me to agree with his views, I’m at least hearkening back to fond memories of taking history electives in college, so when I say I’m enjoying The Prince, that and the LibriVox reader are really the main reasons.

A head’s up: On Monday, I’ll be finally sharing my review of That Hideous Strength, the last book in C. S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy.  In the meantime, I shall soldier on through The Sound and the Fury and, if I survive the fury, will hopefully have some more thoughts on that one in a week’s time or so.  If you’ve read it, let me know – does it get better?!