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As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
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Nov 15, 11

bookshelves: fiction-mainstream
Read in November, 2011

AS I LAY DYING. (1930). William Faulkner. *****.
I first read this novel 50+ years ago as an assigned book for an American Lit course. It was my first Faulkner experience, and I had no idea what I was reading. The problem was that I hadn’t read enough to have any concept of what he was doing in his storytelling. I’m glad I have picked it up again (along with other Faulkner novels that I have re-read) and am a more seasoned reader. The novel is an obvious (or maybe not so obvious) masterpiece. It was one of Faulkner’s earlier novels, and one of the first to begin his saga of the Bundren family, and their native Yoknapatawpha County, a fictional name for his native Lafayette County, Mississippi – later to become the setting for his best-known works. Faulkner tells this story of the death and subsequent burial of Addie Bundren in what was a totally unusual way. Instead of a continuous narrative, he breaks the story down into fifty-nine segments, each segment told by one of the family members or an outsider. He used an experimental style of writing which was emerging at the time – stream of consciousness – but with his own twist. There were 15 different family members involved in this story, and each of them had a chance to tell his or her part of the story in their own way. I found that reading this novel aloud in your head brings the technique of his writing alive and makes it understandable. Although it is a short novel, it is a slow read because of the care you need to take to read it. It should be read in big gulps so that you don’t lose its continuity. I re-read this novel because the Folio Society came out with a new edition, with a marvelous introduction by William Gay (another of those novelists you should not miss) that was both adulatory and perceptive. I highly recommend this novel, one of the best in American literature.
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