I tried reading this a few years ago and didn't get very far. I found the style difficult to follow and I just couldn't "get into it". Recently I read "The Bear" another shorter piece by Faulkner that I remember my mom talking about with high praise. I had a better experience with that because most of it is more straightforward. I felt that when I got to the difficult section I found I was committed already and so was willing to put the effort in to understand what was going on. I found that when I put that effort in I actually was able to get something out of it and basically follow the flow of ideas, although some of the details got muddled.
I attribute another part of my willingness though to some of my experience here on goodreads. I am a lurker. I like to read other people's conversations but don't often contribute. I found though that with reading "The Bear" some of my experience following Stephen M, and s penkevich and their adventures with some of the more difficult books out there came up. I found that I respected their effort and in some sense wanted to be a part of that. It makes me happy to think of the ways that goodreads has influenced me. It was in large part the success I had with the difficult section of "The Bear" that decided me to give "Absalom, Absalom!" another try.
I liked this book a lot. I found the writing to be very dense but that was something I valued this time instead of rejecting. I have heard the idea many times that some books just have to be written a certain way or that the style was crucial to the what was being told, something along the lines of the inseparability of form and content. This is certainly a case in point. Much of what this book is about is conveyed in the style and the structure rather than in the details of the narrative.
I think many of the things that I have to say on that topic are pretty obvious. He is trying to discuss at least in part something that isn't concrete at all, the atmosphere of southern culture. He is also trying to convey it in much the way that we learn about family and cultural history, that is we hear it in different versions and often with repeated material differently emphasized. I really enjoyed, even reveled in, these aspects of the novel.
What do I have to say about the difficulty of this book? Well, I think the reason that I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 despite the fact that it was a great experience for me as a reader was that the density of the writing did serve as a barrier to some extent for me. I found that I was less emotionally connected with the characters and the events of the narrative due to the style. Because of the energy I had to devote to making sense of the text I had less available to feel something about what was going on. I think this is the primary sense in which the text was difficult for me. Reading it was something that did take some determination.
On the other hand, I think that the difficulty of the book is a bit overstated by some of the other reviewers. I feel that often Faulkner was much more clear than I expected him to be and that particularly when you keep reading, anything that is presented in an oblique manner or is somewhat obscure or mysterious is almost always taken up later and explained quite explicitly. So perhaps you have to be willing to live with that sense of unfolding to some extent, but I feel in the end much of what is being discussed is presented pretty directly though not necessarily on a first pass.