Monday, April 14, 2008

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

fiction/literatue, (c)1930, 288pp
rating: ***

Despite being an english major, I never read any Faulkner as a college student or as a high school student. I've been trying to expand my literary horizons now that it doesn't feel like such a task to read "the classics", so I pulled As I Laying Dying off of my book shelf and gave it a read. I purchased it during my senior year of high school to read in preparation for the AP English exam. I never even cracked the cover. Now, 10 years later, I have finished it.

As I Lay Dying tells the story of a country family making a pilgrammage to the big city to bury Addie Bundren, husband to Anse Bundren and five children - Cash, Darl, Jewel, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman. Each chapter is told in Faulkner's signature stream-of-consciousness style by a different narrator. The chapters are labeled with the narrator's name and the reader is immediately plunged into whatever internal monologue the character has at that particular time. The trip to Jefferson to bury Addie Bundren is part tragedy and part farce. While the plot of As I Lay Dying is extremely simple - a woman dies and the family goes to bury her - the themes of the novel are not. Issues of greed, the tragedy of motherhood, illegitimate children, mental disease and rape are all covered through the lens of each character's internal monologue.

I can't say I loved this book. I recognize the skill involved in writing that, and I recognize that Faulkner is an extremely influential writer. The first part of the book was very slow going while I was waiting for Addie to die so that the family could get moving. The stream-of-consciousness narrative vacillates between being really effective story telling and being really difficult to properly figure out. At one point, I had to read a general description of the course of events just so that I could be watching for them in all of the different narratives.

No comments:

Post a Comment