The Sound and the Fury

The Sound of a Lot of Furious Crying: Moving Past the Present in The Sound and the Fury and Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49

It is fitting to discuss the recollection of the past in an age advancing to an unknown futurity and whose memories are increasingly banished to the realm of the nostalgic or, even worse, obsolete. Thomas Pynchon and William Faulkner, in wildly contrasting ways, explore the means by which we, as individuals and communities, remember, recycle, and renovate the past. Retrospection is an inevitability in their works, for the past is inescapable and defines, if not dominates, the present.

Pynchon maintains an optimistic, Ovidian view of the past - we recycle our cultural memories into another, perhaps better, form. The resulting disordered array of culture, one as much filled in by the glut of contemporary television channels as by 17th-century revenge dramas, is organized by some supervisory principle. Much as the postal system orders geography into specific postal codes and zones, Maxwell's Demon in The Crying of Lot 49 "connects the world of thermodynamics to the world of information flow" (106); it applies a controlled, scientific objective to the sprawling, aesthetic subjective.

But Pynchon's culture is not one haunted by the ghosts, except for the ghosts in Hamlet and Scooby-Doo. Faulkner's landscape is...

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