While William Faulkner was working on his masterpiece The Sound and the Fury in the 1920s, he corresponded with his editor about how to make the mutli-narrative clearer for readers. "I wish publishing was advanced enough to use colored ink…as I argued with you and Hal in the Speakeasy that day," he wrote. "I'll just have to save the idea until publishing grows up." What Faulkner was specifically referring to was the Benji section of the book:
"If I could only get it printed the way it ought to be with different color types for the different times in Benjy's section recording the flow of events for him, it would make it simpler, probably."
It's taken a while, but the Folio Society has worked hard to fulfill Faulkner's request. Last week they released a special edition of The Sound and the Fury in 14 colors. As the LA Times reports,
"It's a fine press edition, quarter-bound in leather, with a slipcase and an additional volume of commentary. It also includes a color-coded bookmark that reveals which time period is designated by each color."
The Folio Society worked with two Faulkner scholars to determine how to color code the text. It was decided that only one character's section will be colored, Benji's, a mentally disabled man whose narrative can be difficult to follow because it shifts between different time periods. The color coding will allow for a greater comprehension of the text and make it more accessible to readers. Some may question the impact of such alterations on the novel as a whole, but Neil Titman, the Folio Society's commissioning editor for limited editions, said, "With the Benji section the different threads are sufficiently clear that I don't feel we are distorting or compromising the novel." Titman went on to explain that scholars looked into coding other sections of the book but found that there were "nuances they simply couldn't disentangle" in other narrators. Moreover, he added, "Faulkner himself didn't' envisage any other part of the book being treated in that fashion, anyway." This special edition was published in a limited printing of 1,480 and is priced at $345.