"As God is my witness, your father worked this land, worked his fingers to the bone, worked his bones to the sand, to the mud, to the dirt, to the dung which he thereupon heaped upon the arid soil and weathered the best years of his flea-bitten, whiskey-sodden life for yon children, children of yore that ye may reap the reward and all that he sow and be sown and me sewing socks and plucking gristle from there yonder teeth that ye all may live to chew again and again in the dusk and dust seetling like locusts upon the pasture the flagrancy of wings buzzing and cricking and your backtalk like cicadas chirping in the gullet of some burned out deadened cow skull bone-white and the maggots falling from the sky like rain. What have you to say for yeself boy?"
"I say it and again must I say it I don't want no part of this vile stinkin' farm that shadows me like a grave freshly dug and rife and steaming with the manure of all dead things bowels freshly flushed from the throes of death when it is ventriloquism, yes, yes, I say it again, ventriloquism that stains my heart thumps my breast, the voices sounding like a coon-dog on the scent and buckshot peppering the limp body of yonder duck but I can make it speak, a magic that begins guttural but soon finds its purchase in all manner of living and dead and all that lies between and even the trout in the stream sing my name but barely, just barely and may the sun set and cast its darkness into your darkness and so dark you can't find the doorknob for the darkness within."
Wow! I don't know about you but when I read that passage I just about choked on my luncheon meat. Faulkner's command of the language, his ability to break the rules of grammar and thus break down the boundaries between words, freeing not only language itself but the minds of his characters, is inspiring and dizzying and I highly recommend not eating any kind of canned luncheon meat while reading this book. Just a warning unless you're adept at Heimlich maneuvering yourself over the back of a chair or across an old steam radiator or against an ironing board, which I have had to do on two separate occasions and so Faulkner and luncheon meat sit just right with me. With you, probably not.
"What evil has this misbegotten son wrought upon those duped by the fragrance of ventriloquism gone astray, gone from the voice that would throw itself that would speak itself and then speak in the heads of others and in voices those others have not heard before with jaws clacking like an old man on his deathbed speaking last words, teeth rattle to death rattle and nary a word to be heard, mute like the tongues of angels pulled from their roots and put on display, oh, the sound, the fury, the dummy that speaketh not nor rolls its eyes with the great joke that snuffs out all being."
These are Lothario's words, so beautifully constructed by Faulkner, and the reader glimpses the first allusion to the title of the book and its subsequent meaning. For the sound is the sound of throwing your voice, the ability to make dummies speak and the fury is the anger arising from Lothario Benson's perceived slights when confronted by a fellow ventriloquist who will utter no sound. "Oh, the sound, the fury," Lothario bemoans a second time, maybe ten or eleven pages later (I'm not sure which as the pages were stuck toether with either some sort of dried food remnant or bodily fluid), sitting at the kitchen table of his farm, his head resting on one of Uncle Gibble's giant rutabagas and his sheer despair can be felt right through the pages and you can even smell it too, although that might just be because the copy I own is a little moldy. In one of the most heart-rending scenes in the novel, Lothario strips off all of his clothing, runs out naked into the fields like a lamb of God before the slaughter and begins throwing his voice indiscriminately, making rutabagas speak and then cabbages and then beans, potatoes (which have eyes so doesn't seem as strange), carrots, pumpkins, rhubarb and celery (Uncle Gibble, it seems, had quite a good vegetable crop that year). Soon the fields are alive with the sound of vegetable voices, talking, mumbling, muttering, groaning and laughing, the sound and the fury culminating into one great chorus of voices rising to the heavens, mute no more against anti-ventriloquist forces posing in sheep's clothing and then the little lamb is slaughtered and so is its mother and there's mutton on the table for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next five nights and a little left over for Parson Oobalooba when he drops by on Sunday and so the wolf need not wear sheep clothing anymore nor howl at the moon when the mutton runs out. But Lothario's dear wife, Etta Blimpspots Benson, soothes the tortured soul of her husband, so much so that nine months later she gives birth to twins, Tzitzi and Noncy, brother and sister and it's not long before they follow in their father's footsteps, putting on shows with their dummy, Lord Pomeroy.
Eventually Faulkner winds the whole thing down in a fractured denouement that resounds like a grandfather clock being struck repeatedly with an axe. Such is the subtlety of his thoughts, couched in the fecundity of his language, or more accurately, crammed into a folded-up sofa bed, its springs broken by time and the enormous rear ends of overweight cousins. Is this the place you'd like to sleep? To rest your troubled and over-sized head? I think not. Neither does Faulkner. And let me tell you, it isn't easy trying to throw your voice from inside the cramped space and metal constraints of a sofa bed. Just ask Sir Lumpy, Lord Pomeroy, Mr. Gobbles or Sheldon Goldstein. Don't wait too long for an answer though because by then you'll be dead or maybe a zombie making cannibal salami in Hell's kitchen. And wishing you'd paid a little more attention in ventriloquism school.