Greatest Hits: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

This week we’re featuring some of our “greatest hits” – the most popular Book-a-Day blog posts since we started this almost three years ago. Today’s is As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, reviewed by Clare B.

Story telling is considered a Southern tradition, and perhaps one of the greatest of Southern storytellers is William Faulkner.  I often hear people say that Faulkner is too difficult to read.  He can be difficult. As I Lay Dying is certainly is not.

As the novel opens Addie Bundren is dying.  Outside her window, her son Cash is building her coffin.  Addie has had a difficult life.  Her husband is no count; her children are hardly better.  She has made her husband promise that he will bury her body in Jefferson, a neighboring town where she grew up.  This simple request is actually anything but simple.

Sons Jewel and Darl are away with the wagon, and return two days after Addie is dead.  Floods wash out two bridges, further delaying the trip.  Two days into the trip, an accident while they are attempting to ford the flooded river leaves Cash seriously injured and the mules dead.  In the mean time, buzzards are following them, and the smell of the Addie’s body is overwhelming.

As I Lay Dying is funny, horrifying and fascinating.  Each chapter is told in the voice of a different family member or friend.  We see this journey in the bewilderment of young Vardaman, who cannot understand his mother’s death; of Dewey Dell who is too absorbed in her own unplanned pregnancy to grieve, and Anse Bundren, whose main goal, besides burying his wife, is to buy false teeth.

I think the key to reading and enjoying Faulkner is to not think about it too much.   We read him in English class, and spend hours examining what he was trying to say.  Instead, perhaps, we should just read him.  Enjoy the language and loose ourselves in the humor, satire and train of thought.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

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