Thursday, September 24, 2009

Stream of Consciousness Writing Should Be Outlawed

So, I started on my new morning book, Bread & Water, Wine & Oil yesterday morning. I haven't gotten very far in it, but it's interesting, the author is apparently also a psychiatrist, as well as being an Orthodox priest. Anyway, this thought is only tangentially related to the book.

The author was discussing the difference between brain and heart, and why our *feelings* aren't really a very accurate way to judge anything, and while talking about the brain he mentioned the way information actually runs through our minds - the stream of consciousness. Which brings me to today's random and completely personal rant:

I *hate* Stream of Consciousness writing and William Faulkner. I've obviously never met the man, so it's not personal. But my AP English teacher in high school and a *thing* for Faulkner and Shakespeare. Shakespeare, I got, really. But Faulkner! *proceeds to bang head into desk* You know what I took away from that section? "My mother is a fish." That's it. You say Faulkner, that's the *first* thought I get, and then the urge to start screaming and run the other way.

There's a *reason* we don't just have a running babble coming out of our mouths of what we're thinking. You know what it is? It's because our thought process doesn't make any bloody sense to anyone but us! We have to *edit* for the useful information to share!

Here's just one example of Faulkner:

"The quilt is drawn up to her chin, hot as it is, with only her two hands and her face outside. She is propped on the pillow, with her head raised so she can see out the window, and we can hear him every time he takes up the adze or the saw. If we were deaf we could almost watch her face and hear him, see him. Her face is wasted away so that the bones draw just under the skin in white lines. Her eyes are like two candles when you watch them gutter down into the sockets of iron candlesticks. But the eternal and the everlasting salvation and grace is not upon her."- William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

Now, don't get me wrong, Faulkner's a *great* writer. He totally deserves his reputation, and I did, in fact, learn from his writing. *However*, *WHY* did it have to be stream of consciousness? WHY? You could set the same scene (not me, cause I'm not up to that calibre of writing, but someone else) give the same information, set the same tone, and have it not be in unedited crazy speak!

*here ends my completely irrationally prejudiced post*


  1. :D I have never read Faulkner, and if it's all like that probably would not be able to get through it. I would, however, keep it around and read a few paragraphs at a time when I need a laugh. I love bad writing/editing.

  2. Oh, but see, it's not bad writing/editing. Seriously, he's one of those authors that lit teachers apparently love to trot out as brilliant examples of the art. I'm really not sure how they *make* the distinction between bad writing and then this stuff, because I don't see a difference, except Faulkner meant to write this way.

    I'm not sure if all of his stuff is SoC, because after that class ended, I gave away all the books. I couldn't even stand to look at them. I say I learned from him, because I did. I learned that I hate that style, and will never, ever, ever, willingly read it again. Ever.

  3. Your rants are so cute to read. :)

  4. Ah, you too were inflicted with "As I Lay Dying"? Hated that book. Fortunately Faulkner didn't always write that way. HIs short story "A Rose for Emily" is incredible. And incredibly creepy.

  5. It is funny what lit teachers make you read. My teacher in high school was big on "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad. HORRIBLE BOOK. But English teachers love it.

    Maybe they need a new list of books....

  6. Susanne,

    As long as I entertain, and get it off my chest at the same time, all is well. :)

  7. samantharoyce,

    That obvious, is it? :)

    Maybe that's why I'm so torn on Faulkner. I *hated* As I Lay Dying, but the short story I remember, Barn Burning, I loved.

  8. LK,

    I think they're very limited by the 'classics' and then what books parents won't flip out about their kids reading. We had a couple in town try and get The Last of the Wine banned from school reading lists. *shakes head*

    That said, I read Heart of Darkness in middle school and it doesn't hold anywhere near the level of, 'Oh dear God, no!' that I get with Faulkner.

    Some day, perhaps I'll share my Moby Dick stories. *shudder* Frankly, I think any book, no matter how great, looses some of its appeal when you're forced to disect it and what the author meant by this that and the other thing.

  9. thanks for this post! I've been trying to read Ali Smith's 'Hotel World' but abandoned the attempt. Then I tried Ali Smith's 'The Accidental' - shortlisted for the Booker 2005. I gave up. I realised I can't STAND stream of consciousness. I thought it was just me.


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