“I’ve Always Meant to Read That Book!” Challenge: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

asilaydyingTitle: As I Lay Dying
Author: William Faulkner
Genre: Classics, literary fiction
Publisher: Vintage International
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from the public library
First line: Jewel and I come up from the field, following the path in single file.

Goodreads blurb: As I Lay Dying is Faulkner’s harrowing account of the Bundren family’s odyssey across the Mississippi countryside to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Told in turns by each of the family members—including Addie herself—the novel ranges in mood from dark comedy to the deepest pathos.

Wow. Reading As I Lay Daying was quite an experience. I’m hoping some of you read along with me, because I want to know if you all found it as completely bizarre as I did! What a strange story about the ultimate in dysfunctional families.

Honestly, I had a hard time in several sections truly understanding what was happening, due to Faulkner’s rambling, stream-of-consciousness style. The biggest impression I took away was that Anse’s determination to bury Addie in Jefferson was the ruination of his family. Every member ends up worse off than they were before their mother’s death: Dewey Dell is pregnant; Jewel has lost his beloved horse; Darl is institutionalized; Cash loses the use of his leg; and Vardaman is unable to deal with his grief and becomes unhinged. This book could be a manual of how NOT to parent!

I honestly am struggling to understand why this is considered such an American classic. Faulkner is said to have bragged that he wrote the book in six weeks and didn’t change a single word of it. As someone who rewrites even blog posts several times, I wonder if that maybe isn’t necessarily something to be proud of. I know that this style of writing was very popular in the first half of the 20th century, but it’s not a style I enjoy reading.

Well, at least I can say I’ve read Faulkner, right? What did you think? Did anyone enjoy it more than I did?

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21 Responses to “I’ve Always Meant to Read That Book!” Challenge: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

  1. Ellie says:

    Ive just finished reading this after it has been on my shelf for what seems like forever. I found it quite a stressful experience! There were some bits that stood out for me, like when Dewey Dell is trying to procure an abortion, but otherwise I think it is one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read. I’m not going to be reading anything else by Faulkner that’s for sure. So glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t understand how this is a great American classic. I hope your next read is more enjoyable.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Ellie – I’m reading Grapes of Wrath now. It’s not exactly cheerful – but I’m thinking I’ll like it more than the Faulkner.

  2. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    A very dear friend of mine gave me this book as a gift, and said it was one of her favorite books! So now you really have me vexed. I will admit I haven’t read it yet because I was intimidated. One of these days…
    Sandy´s last post ..Sunday Salon: Winding Up the Bird

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Sandy – It’s amazing how different people can be – I certainly can’t imagine calling it one of my favorite books!

  3. bermudaonion(Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    I’ve never read Faulkner and admire you for tackling this one.
    bermudaonion(Kathy)´s last post ..Happy Easter!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Kathy – it wasn’t my first choice, but it was one of the ones voted into the challenge, so….

  4. hillarypat says:

    Aw, I like this book! This is the second time I’ve read it. I admit stream of conscious writing is not the easiest to always read but I really like this book for several reasons: the distinct voices of all the characters, the black comedy, and the sheer ridiculousness of the Bundren’s in their situation and their attitudes towards each other, Addie speaking beyond the grave, etc. To me at least there’s no question as to why this book is an American classic- Faulkner really is one of the masters of stream of consciousnesses and for that reason alone he deserves to be recognized. Still, I can see why this book is not for everyone! At least it is a short book so if it’s not your cup of tea at least it is over quickly!

    I went to the library the other day to get the next book in the challenge for April- I got East of Eden instead of The Grapes of Wrath by mistake! Oops!
    hillarypat´s last post ..Happy Easter!!

  5. irene says:

    Well it seems like it’s a mixed review, my son liked it, but he did say it’s bizarre. Happy Easter.
    irene´s last post ..Sunday Salon… Happy Easter

  6. Kathleen says:

    The Sound and the Fury just about did me in with its excessive use of stream of consciousness. As I Lay Dying was an easy read compared to that and I actually quite enjoyed it.

  7. Susan says:

    I’ve read two of Faulkner’s : The Sound and the Fury and Light in August. They’re tough at times to understand but Light in August was more accessible. As I Lay Dying sounds like too big a hill to contemplate. good for you.
    Susan´s last post ..The Sunday Salon: April Preview

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Susan – I’m not sure if I’ll ever give Faulkner another try, but if I do, I’ll remember Light in August.

  8. Marg
    Twitter: MargReads

    I read a couple of Faulkners when he was the Oprah book club choice years ago. I can’t say I remember loving the books but I did like one more than the other. I have no interest in reading more though even though I do have a couple more on my bookshelf.
    Marg´s last post ..From the Kitchen of Half Truths by Maria Goodin

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Marg – I guess I will just never understand why some authors are considered so wonderful.

  9. stacybuckeye says:

    I was not a fan of this either. I felt like a totally missed what everyone saw. Glad I wasn’t the only one.
    stacybuckeye´s last post ..G is for Gage Going Gluten-free

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