Revenge - The Pound and the Fury

If ever I'm unlucky enough to have a child
A girl
Or a boy
I'll name it William Faulkner
And demand from it a refund
For thirteen euros sixty five centimes
Or after
Beating the honest-to-goodness goddamn holy shit outta it.

New York, N.Y
October 1928


  1. This is brilliant.
    I've never read any Faulkner
    but his great grandson wants to have a three-way with me.

    The Kingdom Comes,
    D R .

    p.s. i love that picture in stripes.

  2. Hey Doctor,

    I've never read Faulkner either, it shows what a mean bastard I am. It also means I may some day have to write another poem to apologize. But I have tried to read him. A few years ago and again this week. I went out and bought The Sound and the Fury and should have really known not to by the '17 critical essays' that made up the back third of the book. Whenever a book comes with critical essays it usually means it makes no sense - it's a little like giving out a free dictionary with these pompous wordsmiths who write 180 pages intent on not being understood.

    Anyway, as soon as I opened Faulkner's book I saw it was the kind of inaccessible crap which scholars like to pick through for the peanuts, but which I despise. Stylistically it is interesting, and for a writer it's interesting to read, but it's finally such an exercise in style that it becomes a chore to read and finally it becomes unreadable. It tries to elevate literature above the heads of the many, and sadly does. I will persevere with it though.... If only to make sure I never write like that myself.

    Oh God, is that true about his Gt Grandson wanting a freeway wih ya? You've gotta do it! That could be historic. Him, you and your boyfriend? Or is the third person someone else? If it's with your boyfriend and he doesn't object go for it... It could be the basis of your first book! (Could even be the basis of mine!) Everyone could write a book about your freeway... 'On The Road with Dusty Rose'

    If it happens, give him a few sly elbows in the ribs and think of me. X

  3. The grandson is a real slut, to the point it's not really that cute anymore but actually reading some Faulkner might make it more clear.
    I really do like Southern Gothic like O'Connor and Shirley Jackson.

  4. nonono Shane, you're wrong about Faulkner. The next time you read "The Sound and the Fury", don't try to make sense of it or untangle the characters. The first section is supposed to be hazy and dreamlike; it's written from the jumbled point of view of an 'imbeciele'.. As the book goes on the fog lifts, everything comes into focus and the sense is made for you. I HATE wading through verbose, overly-complicated text only to find it wasn't worth it and there is no reward for your excavations. Faulkner isn't like that, he's just very.. sculptural about how he writes.

    S xx

  5. Hmm. I think this is some sort of inverse snobbery, haha :)

    I respect your opinion but have to disagree. I don't think any books should be restricted to certain classes. All it takes to understand Faulkner is a literary education, and as you said once, anyone can educate themselves, regardless of their social background. Books written in a direct, viseral style are desperately important and much more accessable to the 'underclass' but conceptual writing is also really important as an artform. Of course if a kid was to pick up 'The Sound and the Fury' straight off the bat to try and get into reading, they'd probably be put off for life. But a few novels down the line, I think a lot can be learned from getting out of your literary comfort zone. Faulkner's is just an entirely novel way of writing, like the difference between abstraction and realism in art. Realism is easier to understand but abstraction is equally honest and valuable once you understand what it is you're looking at.

    Sometimes I read for the story and sometimes I read for the concept/style and Faulkner is one of those writers I pick up when I'm in the mood to be challenged, along with Raymond Roussell and Borges. I'm almost entirely self-educated, not an Oxbridge arse-picker or Guardian reading, middle-class elitist and I don't think intellectualism is stuffy. I have friends from all walks of life who would happily spend an evening getting wasted, whiling away the time dissecting the minuatae of Faulkner's use of italics with me but that's because we're thirsty for knowledge of all kinds, not because we only see the value in books nobody else understands.
    The same people would happily sit round Wetherspoons drinking a cheap pint and reading aloud from the letters page of Sun.

    Knowledge is power! Regardless of who it was originally intended for. I believe anyone who has gone through the struggle of writing a novel has something important to say. Except Will Self, probably.

    He really does need to be stabbed in the eyes with a fountain pen. I ripped one of his god awful books to pieces and threw it across the room after a few pages one time. Hideous man.


  6. Hey Again Sailor,

    No, it's not snobbery, it's a small part of the thought that goes into my own art of words, and a backbone to what I do which helps me decide which words I will use and which order I will put them in and how to best express often complex thoughts in ways which are comprehensible. These ideas come from my own knowledge and study of literature, and in acquiring them i've come across writers who share some common stylistic traits and ideas, and others, like Faulkner, who are completely irrelevant to me as a writer and hold only very limited stylistic interest.

    I don't think any books should be restricted to certain classes.

    Oh, I agree, but the problem is that the likes of Faulkner does restrict (and intentionally so) their books to certain classes: the classes who can afford that literary education which you talk about. And don't be fooled into thinking that education is free and equal just because it is there and is compulsory, or that it's us who decides if we'll profit from it or not, because that is not the case and neither is it right that a child should even have that as a conscious consideration. Literary Education is only available to a few, and it's very difficult to attain it when you're living in poverty, or you're being abused, or your father's a drunk and life is so unfortunate that to even get a good night sleep is impossible let alone find time to study and do well at school. And we all know these things, and more so in Faulkner's time. So to write, knowing your words are geared and will mostly only be relevant to those who are fortunate enough to acquire that 'literary education' is, for me, something disgusting, and also something which helps to make the power of knowledge even more inaccessible to those who need empowering the most.

    Also, I think that Faulkner even goes past that 'literary education', because to understand Faulkner properly and as how he intended to be understood you need even more than a common knowledge of literature... you need to study his books to understand them. When you have great minds like Jean Paul Sartre struggling to explain what the book means and is concerned about, then how am I or my mate John gonna fare?

    anyone can educate themselves,

    No, not everyone can self-educate. It takes time, dedication, sacrifice and above all a want and a need and a reason why. Even then, having all of that, some peoples constitution for learning and taking in information dictates that they need to be taught and tested to best understand. Being able to self-educate is a skill that not everyone has, and it has nothing to do with intellect. But anyhow, people shouldn't have to self-educate, that is a huge fault, and that we are even speaking of it goes to show that writing like Faulkners will escape all of those people who just aren't in the position to self-educate... who just don't have the time. So if knowing this, Faulkner knowing that his book would not be accessible to so many people, I have to ask the question: Did it then really need to be written? Lets imagine the same thing about a paragraph: would you write a paragraph that only 2% of your readers would understand? If you would, that's not a fault and it doesn't mean it's a bad paragraph, but it says that it's not such an important paragraph to begin with.

    Cont'd --->

  7. conceptual writing is also really important as an artform

    I didn't say that Faulkner's writing wasn't important, I said it was important to all the wrong people and for all the wrong reasons. I've also never said it shouldn't exist, just that I am against it for certain reasons and think it goes towards making literature inaccessible and elitist and was intentionally written in such a way so as to be held aloft. But conceptual writing isn't what I'm against... everyone can grasp a concept, my own writing is conceptual, just in a very different way.

    But a few novels down the line, I think a lot can be learned from getting out of your literary comfort zone.

    I think again your response kinda backs up what i'm getting at: we have to be quite fortunate to have 'a literary comfort zone', because it's mostly not through pure habit that people stick to Stephen King. Those with conscious literary safety zones, and of them, those that can go further are a very small group. A book written for them is elitist. A book not written for them but which they get is very different, but faulkner was playing up to literary pretensions. And just because he's held in such high esteem changes nothing. He's right to be held in such high esteem as his work is for those who decide such things.

    Cont'd --->

  8. I also don't think Faulkner's is just an entirely novel way of writing, like the difference between abstraction and realism in art. Realism is easier to understand but abstraction is equally honest and valuable once you understand what it is you're looking at.

    Well realism is only easier to understand if it is written and expressed in a comprehensible way. Realism littered with obscure wordsmith words finally becomes abstract. My reality may very well be abstract to someone else, even when written very plainly. Also, about abstract and even conceptual works or art, something really bugs me. Not the work itself but at the timing of its fashion. If you look at the history of art most new movements, accepted by the established orders, serve to once again put art iout of reach of the majority. Art was at first inaccessible through study and teaching and technique (having to study at court under a revered master for 20 years) then just as we found expressionism, and the price of paints and brushes and canvas became affordable, art suddenly took an abstract, conceptual turn which once again made it inaccessible – only this time due to intellectual comprehension of the language. Once the people started getting that (understanding through exposure) the art world then declared painting and sculpture as dying forms of expression and moved on to installations: HUGE fuck-off works that again made the medium elitist and inaccessible to those who had barely a room to live in let alone 50sq foot of space to stick an installation in. Now art is inaccessible due to space and materials. The history of literature runs along parallel, though much more subtle lines. I fight against these trends, and it's why I fight against Faulkner. Not because he's worthless, or holds no interest, but for what he helps to keep in place. We have to fight against these things, and I always will. I will fight against these things because my great friend Steve Sinclair is a true genius and he never had any place to go.

    Sometimes I read for the story and sometimes I read for the concept/style and Faulkner is one of those writers I pick up when I'm in the mood to be challenged, along with Raymond Roussell and Borges

    I think you'll have to define what you mean by “being challenged” and just what exactly challenges you with those people. For me someone like Camus or Michel Foucault is a challenge, but it's a challenge of pure ideas (the crux of certain problems and thoughts) and the challenge of comprehension of language is done away with as a nuisance. These people (Camus even more so) write in very simple, starightforward styles and yet are expressing some of the most complex ideas of our time. Such writers and thinkers open up education and supply people with real and immediate power... even if it's only the power to disagree. But being able to disagree, say “NO!”, is a very powerful thing.


  9. Re: "All writers have something to say" - Maybe I'm too much of a humanist Shane. Maybe humanism is that last remaining marble rattling around my head, waiting to roll out of my ear and tumble into the abyss.

    Re: "Raymond Roussell and Borges" - Borges challenges me because in a couple of his short stories ('The Library of Babel', 'Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius') he meddles with the whole idea of completing a novel by referring to footnotes from volumes of encyclopaedias that have never been written and authors that have never existed. The idea is that imagining a completed book renders the actual writing of it obsolete. You probably hate this kind of post-modernism but it's just an example of the kind of writing that challenges me because it goes all out to destroy the traditional structure/concept of the novel. In 'Locus Solus' (probably my favourite book of all time) Roussell describes impossible, organic machinery in the most clinical, dry way but the machines he describes are metaphors for his entire existance; they're like an anatomy of his soul. I've found as much truth and value in these novels as I have in Orwell, Candide or Dostoyevsky even though they are the kind of books academically deconstructed to within an inch of their life, because they go out of their way to make their own rules.

    In no way am I devaluing authors who also work with complex ideas but using straight-forward, simple techniques and language. Nor am I underminding the homeless ex-rentboy I know in Soho with his incredible stories about his time signed up, banged up or shooting dope with Francis Bacon in the Colony Rooms. There's more than one way to skin a reindeer. But you're right, possibly I was lucky to have a little time and space to myself at least whilst growing up. I admire your fierce determination to make your writing accessible to anyone who needs to read it. But I think we're gonna have to agree to disagree with a lot of these points. No, Faulkner wasn't written for the working classes; in fact you're right when you say his books were probably written specifically to be held aloft by academics, isolating the majority of people in the process. But that doesn't mean today's underclasses can't educate themselves (via the internet, local libraries) to understand this kind of lofty literature and learn from it on their own terms, because it is bloody brilliant writing (in my opinion anyway).

    My childhood was pretty traumatic at times but I escaped from my reality through books and art - and sometimes the further the words are from your own reality, the further the concepts and ideas are from what you have directly experienced, the more tangible the idea of escape is and the more you learn. That's where I find the value in this kind of academic writing. But then, my obsession with literature isn't exactly typical. To reach the beaten, the broken and the abused who don't have the enthusiasm/time/motivation for 4 hour sessions in the local library, you have to use the most direct means of communication you can.

    Great debating with you Mr. Levene. You always give me a lot to think about.


  10. Nonono Shane :) Like you said, there are no rights or wrongs here, just matters of taste and choice and motivation.. there's nothing really for you to answer to. It boils down me loving Faulkner('s writing) and you wanting to beat the shit out of him for being scholarly and pretentious. Your writing is painful, hilarious, beautiful. Whoever you're writing for, you're obviously touching a huge range of people.

    Thanks for your time, you know I appreciate it.

    S Xxx

  11. Just so you know, I did come back to read this. ;)