Eri-chan's Reviews > As I Lay Dying

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
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Jun 04, 08


I have to admit that I'm not entirely sure what my reaction to this book was. I picked it up mostly because I've never read anything by Faulkner and know that he is regarded as one of the great American writers of the 20th century. I make it a point to expose myself to as much "classic" literature as I can. However, the writing style through me for the proverbial loop - it struck me as way ahead of its time - and I had a difficult time following the plot and understanding the characters because of the extent to which Faulkner really pushed the limits of his prose.

The book observes a family in what is assumed to be a very small town in the deep south or the back country. The mother figure in the family dies, and the family is bound to uphold a promise, made to the mother before her death, to bring her body back to her original hometown and bury her there. The book, told in each chapter from the point of view of a different member of the family (or other individuals who come into contact with them), follows the family's journey in a horsedrawn wagon with the body of their mother in a wooden coffin in the back as they make their way to to their destination with agonizing slowness and no shortage of perils. Each character's chapter is written in their own voice, and some character's natural argots are nearly unintelligible, making it difficult for the reader to really understand what's going on or what the characters are thinking. It does serve to add a lot of realism to the novel, but makes for a challenging read. I will say that the writing of the character of the youngest son, while confusing at first, was really impressive in the way it evoked a small child's speech and thought patterns. I found myself really drawn to this character and really attached to him, as his obvious confusion and lack of understanding of the situations he found himself in really shone through his words.

The story, as a whole, is somehow humorous and tragic all at once, evoking some complex emotions as the plot plays out. The absurdity of the whole situation, coupled with some truly unique characters, keeps things interesting. The ending of the book is abrupt and open-ended, but may very well be the most powerful part of the story, driving home just how absurd the whole thing is.

All in all a thought-provoking read, and a welcome challenge, and I'd like to seek out other novels by Faulkner (The Sound and The Fury seems an obvious choice) but it was definitely a bit difficult to wrap your head around. Not something I'd recommend to the casual reader who doesn't want to work too hard to hit pay-dirt with a book.
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