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?!


  1. cleopatra Avatar

    Great post, Marian! I appreciate and concur with your thoughts. I do like reading classics though because even in struggles and turmoil, they tend to offer some hope and direction to a higher power. At least many of them ….. I do agree with you about Hardy. though :-)Looking forward to sharing more thoughts with you in 2018!


  2. Ruth Avatar

    : ( I know you guys are right about Hardy, but so far I am drawn to him and his writing. (What does that say about me?) Anyway, I dread reading Sound and the Fury, but something tells me I should just because it is one that shows up on lists of books everywhere for every reason. Well, Marian, maybe when you are done w/ it you will be able to take something meaningful from it — even if it is a dread to get through.


  3. Marian H Avatar
    Marian H

    Cleo, that never occurred to me before, but it makes so much sense now… The more cynical attitude of some 20th-century classics is often a turn-off, and while it can be understandable from a historical viewpoint, it's not what I'm looking for in literature. I guess that's why I so much preferred To Kill a Mockingbird over Go Set a Watchman; one suggests hope, and the other futility. Thanks for that thought!


  4. Marian H Avatar
    Marian H

    No worries, Ruth – I often badmouth Hardy, but I was certainly drawn into Far From the Madding Crowd, in spite of not caring for the story. My mom loves the 1998 movie; it's one of her all-time favorites. 🙂 For me, watching one adaptation of Tess was somewhat traumatic…


  5. Jade Avatar

    I can really relate to your desire to read more uplifting stories, like fairy-filled tales and such! Reading is like a vacation, and while deep-thinking, painful novels can provide food for thought, it's nice to just let the world go for awhile and read something that makes you laugh or smile or just feel a little cheery and refreshed. I just finished reading Little Women and loved it!


  6. Marian H Avatar
    Marian H

    Agreed, we need all the little breaks we can get! And Little Women is on my \”re-read soon list\”; I don't know if I've ever blogged about it, but it was a childhood favorite, and I'm curious to return to it as an adult.


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