As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner

Cover ImageFinished 8-19-10, rating 3.5/5, fiction, pub. 1930

He had a word, too.  Love he called it.  But I had been used to words for a long time.  I knew that the word was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time came, you wouldn’t need a word for that anymore than for pride or fear. 

Addie, page 172

The Bundren family lives in Mississippi in the 1930’s and they are preparing for the death of their matriarch, Addie.  Anse, Addie’s husband, has promised her that he will take her body to Jefferson and bury her with her kin.  This promise was easily made but not easily kept.  There were many obstacles in the way of the family’s journey and Anse and their five children had to band together to make the promise happen.

This is my first Faulkner novel and it was a unique reading experience.  Jason tried listening to the audio last year, but gave up and now I see why.  This book makes you work for it and I think listening to the audio in the car would be a difficult proposition.  There are 15 different narrators in this 261 page novel.  I started by writing each of them down for a reference as I was reading and even with that I totally missed who one of the important narrators was and cheated by checking online after I was done.  So, you really have to be one your toes!  And because of that I really think this books begs to be read in one sitting. Faulkner’s writing is spare, but beautiful, and it takes a few chapters to really get into the rhythm.  Once I got it I did not put the book down until I was done.

I liked it because of the innovative writing style, but wasn’t that crazy about the story itself.  The Bundren family is full of characters, but not necessarily any that I truly cared about.  Since I appreciated the writing I will definitely read Faulkner again, but only when I’m ready to devote some time and brain power to the reading.

This is from my personal library and was chosen by…Candice, Hannah, and Molly.  Here’s what they had to say…

“Faulkner is my favorite. This book is a great example of what I love about him. Makes you think, makes you laugh, makes you crazy.”  Molly

“Because this one is often read in high school English classes, but somehow you and I both missed out.”  Hannah

27 thoughts on “As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner

  1. JoAnn says:

    “This book makes you work for it”

    I definitely agree with that statement! While I was reading, I periodically checked Spark Notes just to make sure I didn’t miss anything (and you can bet I did miss a few things). Overall, I thought it was definitely worth the extra effort.

  2. Bumble says:

    I’m glad you stuck with it and found your rhythm. Did you find the Murphy’s Law humor or am I just a bit twisted? I personally have found this to be the easier of his stream of consciousness works to follow. The Sound & The Fury is most challenging – but also my favorite.

    I think Faulkner is meant to be re-read. Like those great movies with the big twists at the end that make you want to go back and rewind to watch it for all the details once you know the end result already.

    • stacybuckeye says:

      I’ve read that The Sound & the Fury is more difficult so I’m glad I read this one! It was a bit Murphy Law-ish which is what made the story work.

      Thank you for recommending it because it would have been years before I got to it on my own. I can see why you are a Faulkner fan.

  3. Amy says:

    I like your review, Stacy. I laughed happily when I saw it becuae I was just looking at thei Faulkner book in the store yesterday. He’s one author, classic author I haven’t read. I have heard he makes you work for it and that re-reading and re-reading gives you more from the story everytime. I don’t think it’s a good idea to read Faulkner while tackling Infinite Jest (for me anyway) but I’m going to put this book on my TBR list.

    ~ Amy

    • stacybuckeye says:

      Yes, I think Infinite Jest is something to finish first 🙂 I really look forward to seeing what you think of it!

  4. Laura's Reviews says:

    I must admit I read As I Lay Dying and I hated it. I didn’t like the unique narrative, disliked the characters, and I disliked the story. I really like Faulkner’s short stories, but can’t seem to make myself enjoy his novels.

    • stacybuckeye says:

      I can totally see where you are coming from. I waited a few days before I reviewed it, so I could have a little distance. I really disliked it at first, but it did grow on me.

  5. Jackie (Farm Lane Books) says:

    I read The Sound and the Fury earlier this year and it took a lot of effort. I only really understood it because I had a study guide. This one sounds just as complicated. I’m not sure I’m ready to study another of his books yet, but you have intrigued me enough to add this to my list 🙂

    • stacybuckeye says:

      I heard this one is easier than The Sound and the Fury, so maybe having read the other first will make this one a breeze 🙂

    • stacybuckeye says:

      Well, it certainly not uplifting, but the tone is obvious from the beginning, so you know not to expect too much happiness.

  6. Jenners says:

    I’ve never attempted Faulkner … sounds like it does require you to pay attention and read slowly (but not to take breaks so you don’t forget). Also sounds like a book that would benefit from being in a classroom situation.

  7. Trisha says:

    This is one of those books that has been sitting on my shelf for sometime, but I’ve never had a real desire to read it. I don’t think I even bought it; I think it was given to me as a gift. Sounds like I was right to not jump on it.

    • stacybuckeye says:

      This would have sat on my shelf for much longer if I hadn’t let you all choose books for me to read this year. You are making me expand my literary horizons!

  8. ds says:

    I love this novel–the structure is brilliant. So much sparer than his other work, which is beautiful in a different way (but I have a lot more of him yet to read).

  9. Little Interpretations says:

    This is my absolute favourite book! I especially love Addie’s section, and weirdly the quote at the top of your post is one I cherish.

    Glad you enjoyed it – so many people seem to miss the point of Faulkner. I’d recommend reading it again – I took so much more away from it the second time round!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s