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Being a work of 'uncollected' stories, it does not have the consistency as, say, These 13, or others arranged by Faulkner, but it does have its gems.
Consider it the "B-side" to a great album collection, some of which you may otherwise never have read, but worth it read, nonetheless.
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If you can make it through sentences that seem to never end and some repitition, you will find a great story of love, guilt, and Southern life. This book opens with the Sartoris family, and several young men (Bayard Sartoris and others) returning home from World War I, and the impressions war left upon them. Thrown in with a little bit of incest, love notes, and a daredevil, this book provides a good combination of mushiness (sp?), humor, and sorrow.
However, while some have said not to read this book as your first Faulkner, I disagree. And here's why: reading this book after you have read some of his other works really makes you look at this book in a more negative way, since his other works have been so great. Just remember, if this is your first Faulkner read, many of his other works are MUCH BETTER, so if you read this first and don't like it, there are MUCH BETTER ones out there. As far as reading goes, it's a pretty easy read (although you might have to keep track of all the Johns and Bayards), at least in comparison to some of his other books. Also, if you plan on reading other Faulkner books, this one is a MUST, since it introduces you to the Benbrows, Snopes, and the Sartorises-all characters that are found in some of his other novels.
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The interesting thing here is Faulkner's obsession with the war hero and the tragedy of war cliche's. Remember also, that Faulkner was walking around in a pilot's uniform that he made himself after failing to join the air force. This book is very much the same thing, and for that point, it's interesting. It's amazing that such a dolt became one of the true voices of wisdom for the century. The upside of this book is that it lets you know you have plenty of time to develop. If you love the guy, you'll read this anyway, but you can save your time and skip Soldier's Pay and Mosquitoes. Save them for when you've already developed an obsession.
I have read almost all of Faulkner's books and enjoyed many, if not most, of them. Frequently moving and always interesting, these books deserve a special place on the bookshelf of American literature. But admit it, often Faulkner - even in his later books - uses words the same way that Jackson Pollock used paint. He sprays, splatters and dribbles them into a squiqqly mess that might, like a good Pollock, be pleasing or meaningful in an 'abstract expressionist' way, but simply doesn't make sense on a purely cognative and narrative level. There is less of that in Soldier's Pay than one gets later, but you can sure see it coming.
Overall, a wonderful book for discussion and reflection!
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