Today Stephen Ross, The Folio Society’s commentary author, will be discussing their edition at the Faulkner session at the ALA (American Literature Association) 23rd Annual Conference in the Hyatt Regency 5 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco ,California. This edition is the first to realise my favorite American author’s vision for his greatest work. Two years ago, Folio member Leopold Green wrote to their Production Director Joe Whitlock Blundell with an unusual publishing proposal. Mr Green revealed that William Faulkner had longed to see The Sound and the Fury in an edition printed with coloured inks.Mr Green’s challenge immediately piqued Joe’s interest: ‘Not only has The Sound and the Fury never appeared in coloured inks before, but to the best of my knowledge, no book has ever been printed in this way, so the challenge was considerable – and irresistible!’ Printed in 14 different colours, this edition of The Sound and the Fury is a unique contribution to American Literature.
The Sound and The Fury is acknowledged as one of the masterpieces of 20th-century literature. It takes the modernist narrative devices of stream-of-consciousness, time-shifts and multiple changes of viewpoint to an unprecedented level of sophistication. Faulkner was well aware that readers would find it difficult, and employed italic and roman type to convey its ‘unbroken-surfaced confusion’, but when his agent attempted to standardise and simplify the system this prompted an angry objection from Faulkner. He quickly jotted down eight time-levels in Benjy’s section, ‘just a few I recall’, and wished that it could be ‘printed the way it ought to be with different color types’, but he concluded pessimistically, ‘I don’t reckon … it’ll ever be printed that way’.
The Folio Society determined that it could be printed that way, and drew on the expertise of two noted Faulkner scholars to work on fulfilling Faulkner’s idea. Stephen M. Ross and Noel Polk undertook the painstaking task of identifying each different time-level to be coloured, while keeping the original italic/roman shifts. We can never know if this is exactly what Faulkner would have envisaged, but the result justifies his belief that coloured inks would allow readers to follow the strands of the novel more easily, without compromising the ‘thought-transference’ for which he argued so passionately.