Sunday, May 25, 2008

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

" I could just remember how my father use to say that the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time. And when I would have to look at them day after day each with his and her secret and selfish thought and blood strange to each other and strange to mine and think that this seemed to be the only way I could get ready to stay dead. I would hate my father for ever having planted me." -Addie Bundren

As I Lay Dying tells the story of Addie Bundren, her death, and the subsequent trip to her hometown where she wanted to be buried. Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different person. The sons: enigmatic Cash; borderline-empathic Darl; loner Jewel; youngest child Varadman; the daughter, Dewey Dell; Anse, the selfish, uneducated father; and an extended cast of characters encountered along the way. Even Addie takes a single chapter to speak from beyond the grave.

Spoilers Follow.

The tone of the entire book is pitch black and macabre, full of distasteful and disturbing bits. Vardaman, drilling holes in the casket so his dead mother can “breathe”, drives a spike too far into the casket and into her face. Later he believes his mother has escaped through the holes, because she is actually a fish. Cash's leg is broken, so Anse encases it in cement, creating a makeshift oven in which it is eventually essentially baked alive. Dewey Dell is duped into a 'treatment' for her pregnancy that's essentially rape. Anse finds a new wife a day after burying his old one. Not to mention that about halfway through the book, Addie Bundren's body begins to rot and smell so badly that the Bundren's are nearly arrested.

I found the story mostly disturbing. Overall, As I Lay Dying was not a very good book, and I'm unsure if it made me want to read more of Faulkner's work or stay away from it. Faulkner reportedly wrote As I Lay Dying in six weeks and claims he didn't change a word.

He is also quoted as saying that he wanted to write one book that his reputation could stand or fall upon.

My mother is a fish.

My post is a revision of Brent's.

11 comments:

Brooke said...

As an English major I always feel guilty for never having read any Faulkner, but it all just seems too depressing...

Christopher said...

It is depressing, but it's also fantastic. You really didn't think it was very good?

Amanda said...

I love this book. We read it in high school, and I thought it was the most fascinating book I'd ever read at the time. Everything is so convoluted that it's hard to make out things as they really are (Vardaman being mentally handicapped, for instance) right away. This book is the one that opened the door to my love of literature. It's my favorite of Faulkner's.

Christopher said...

'zactly

Elizabeth said...

Hmm, :) It wasn't that I didn't think it was good. I just didn't really like it. I enjoyed reading it, but at the end I felt like I had just read the world's longest joke and it wasn't all that funny.

Carlton said...

Haha.

Brooke said...

Too bad Grey's Anatomy wasn't around before this or Anse woulda known better 'en that.

That was a joke.

Amanda said...

Elizabeth, that's exactly how I felt at the end of Don Quixote...

Nihil Novum said...

Hush, you vile rabble!

Carlton said...

You low-born knave!

Marlene Detierro said...

The book was amazing I HIGHLY recommend it to everyone. I feel, after reading this book, like reading Faulkner opened up a new relm of literature to me, in the same way as did reading Hemmingway or Nabokov.

Marlene Detierro (Software Download)