Without straying from his inimitable voice, Faulkner delivers a professional, calculated effort here than with his novel of the year prior, The Sound and the Fury There are novel y aspects to As I Lay Dying, and Faulkner emerges as the master of the slow or late reveal, which might be described as reverse foreshadowing As an example, Faulkner will provide a character scene that s fraught with emotion and history and meaning, but he won t explain the context There s dramatic electricity, and we fully expect to understand the situation even while failing to receive any adumbrations And that s because Faulkner isn t actually hinting at events to come he s showing us something we can t understand without promises of future textual elucidation We just have to trust that he ll come through, which of course he always does via hints that come after the event It s sort of uncomfortable, and it made me reread certain passages obsessively, assuming that something must have slipped by But this way we get to feel the drama first with disorientation rather than with understanding I ve read a few confusing novels, and no writer seems to use this method of disorientation so deliberately and so effectively as a ploy Faulkner puts us at his mercy He s the one calling the shots, and we have to play by his rules More than anything else, I think it s this aspect that can make people uneasy or unhappy with his works But really it s a gift, leaving us with the rawness and incomprehensibility of life, which only begin to make sense in hindsight through functions of memory and our desire to find order and purpose This, along with stream of consciousness, is what gives Faulkner as much of a claim to the title of Modernist as any of his contemporaries he provides us with a hyper reality via a unique, non straightforward narrative structure So this is a great book, and its star rating is possibly suffering because it s coming on the heels of a definitively 5 star read The characterization is, for the most part, fantastic The story is told from various points of view, usually in two or three page chapters I d say about ten characters help to tell the story, but our primary narrator is Darl some spoilers to follow Darl is the second eldest son of the story s plot mover, Addie Bundren, and his character arc is probably the one thing keeping this novel out of masterpiece territory for me He s described as someone intuitive and special, a bit of an oddball but a nice, thoughtful kid His own narration backs this up he s the wise one, the amateur philosopher, and his narration is filled with difficult words and surprisingly correct grammar But something happens with him toward the end of the book that didn t quite work for me Faulkner s main philosophical exploration in this novel is relativity with regard to both morals and sanity, and Darl does something that confirms the others suspicions that he s a little bit crazy But given the absurdity of the situation the characters are in, Darl s action actually makes some good sense From a certain point of view, it s perfectly understandable So far, so good Camus would have been really jealous of this set up Only one character, Darl s older brother Cash, recognizes that Darl may not actually be crazy Sometimes I aint so sho who s got ere a right to say when a man is crazy and when he aint It s like it aint so much what a fellow does, but it s the way the majority of folks is looking at him when he does it.Exactly But then, inexplicably, Faulkner decides that Darl is, in fact, insane in the course of Darl s final narration, he exhibits previously unseen schizophrenic behavior, complete with nonsensical ramblings addressing himself in the third person What Faulkner should have left him the way he was, as the guy who has almost too much sense and insight and therefore gets funny looks from all the normal people But this criticism arises from the contents of a two page chapter, and fortunately it can be excised with a little mental effort There s also the possibility that some crucial hints in the book escaped me Because of Faulkner s storytelling style, in which many things only make sense later, it s likely that I missed the significance of many comments, thoughts, and glances along the way As I mentioned in a review for The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner is ripe for rereads because it s inevitable that seeming irrelevancies and ambiguous character interactions from the first read will take on new meanings when you re equipped with knowledge of the whole story Unfortunately, I ve never been one of those readers who can go right back to the beginning of a book after finishing it One of the fascinating things about this novel is that it can be read either as a tragedy or as a black comedy or, therefore, as a tragicomedy The case for the former is rather straightforward considering the events of the book, particularly with regard to Darl The bleak comedic aspect comes from the story s McGuffin to fulfill the above mentioned Addie Bundren s last wish of being buried in her family s hometown which becomes increasingly absurd as it proves logistically improbable to carry out All manner of misfortunes are incurred as a result of her spineless husband s uncharacteristic firmness in fulfilling this wish, a resolve that s made even unbefuckinglievably absurd by the book s final five words It s all too tragic for laughs, but it s pure genius. And since sleep is is not and rain and wind are was, it is not Yet the wagon is, because when the wagon is was, Addie Bundren will not be And Jewel is, so Addie Bundren must be And then I must be, or I could not empty myself for sleep in a strange room And so if I am not emptied yet, I am is There are people who actually like this Seriously though, I m pretty sure I get it, I just don t like it There is a family and each one is a reflection of a way of living, or in some cases, a way of dying Anse is the woe is me type and Addie is the Serve your purpose and die type and that s all well and good, and it s a pretty cool idea for a book, I just don t like Faulkner Do you know that skill has very little to do with the process of inventing a concept I m still not entirely convinced that Faulkner is the genius he is made out to be In fact, I m not entirely convinced I should like him at all Based off his biography he is kind of a pathetic, lying, failure so what am I supposed to think of his writing Stream of consciousness is one thing, writing in Faulkner s way is another Scenes are dropped onto our heads in ways we cannot comprehend and actions are portrayed without explanation And do you know the unfairest cut of all Faulkner knows what he is trying to say, he knows all about these characters, he just isn t showing us anything An example originally there were no names at the beginning of the chapters Yeah, no kidding He just wrote this shit with no explanation of our speaker and expected us to figure it out That is not genius Writing is about making a connection to a stranger, bridging a gap of confusion to create understanding and to share an idea, a theme, an image with thousands or millions of people who you ve never met Faulkner writes in jargon he understands with little to no respect for the reader and I can t forgive him for it If you don t believe me then write something Write a short story Write 3, or 4, or 5 pages Flesh out the characters and their histories and their conflicts Got it Okay, now when you are writing a scene with multiple people use only the pronoun he You will know who you are talking about do we Is that good writing No, it isn t.It is easy to be confusing It is easy to write something beautiful and understandable for yourself It s hard to write universal words which we can all connect Good idea, Faulkner, poor performance. 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 Narrated In Turn By Each Of The Family Members Including Addie Herself As Well As Others, The Novel Ranges In Mood, From Dark Comedy To The Deepest Pathos Considered One Of The Most Influential Novels In American Fiction In Structure, Style, And Drama, As I Lay Dying Is A True Th Century Classic This Edition Reproduces The Corrected Text Of As I Lay Dying As Established In By Noel Polk AS I LAY DYING 20 5 ,. THIS BOOK IS ABOUT HICKS THEY GO TO TOWN Once you get past the ungainly oddness and wild strangeness which assails you from every direction, then you can see the weirdness which lies beyond The story, and there is a very strong clear linear narrative here, is wonderfully stupid A back country family in Mississippi in the 20s has their dear mama Addie Bundren up and die on them and the lazy ass sumbitch daddy thinks he then has to carry out her settled dying wish which, very unreasonably, was to get buried with her own kin 40 miles away in Jefferson This wouldn t be so bad except it s the height of summer and there s just been bad rains and a flood, so the bridges over the river are down The whole passel of them, four sons, one daughter, one daddy, two mules and one horse, nevertheless trek off to do the right thing To say they encounter obstacles would be to say nought but the truth One such is that before very long Addie starts to decomp, to which many passing strangers take exception So it s kind of a comic tale but it ain t told comically No sir No ma am The guides will say the same thing about this short but dense like a black hole novel As I Lay Dying is written as a series of stream of consciousness monologues, in which the characters thoughts are presented in all their uncensored chaos, without the organizing presence of an objective narrator.That s from the online Spark Notes Fair enough , except that it s just completely not true All the short chapters are headed up with a character name, and it kind of naturally seems as if that character is narrating, but a only occasionally could you call anything in this book stream of consciousness, and even then it s nothing at all like our old beloved friends Virginia Woolf or James Joyce because these interior monologues come at you in perfectly formed and mostly graceful sentences and b The chapters obey no consistent rules or they change the rules all the time which is the same thing, so that in the middle of a paragraph it is suddenly the author s omniscient voice popping up And another thing what Faulkner does all the time is bend the credibility of the characters voices until they break Here s two examples of purely natural monologue Because be durn if there ain t something about a durn fellow like Anse that seems to make a man have to help him, even when he knows he ll be wanting to kick himself the next minute.And Sometimes I think it aint none of us pure crazy and aint none of us pure sane until the balance of us talks him that a way It s like it aint so much what a fellow does, but it s the way the majority of folks is looking at him when he does it But here s an example of Faulkner s own voice breaking in The narrator here is Vardaman, aged around ten I can cry quiet now, feeling and hearing my tears It is dark I can hear wood, silence I know them But not living sounds, not even him It is as though the dark were resolving him out of his integrity into an unrelated scattering of componentsThe last sentence is not Vardaman It s Faulkner Here s the daughter Dewey Dell her usual mode is like this About his head the print of his hat sweated into his hair His shirt is blotched with sweat He has not washed his hands and arms But then The cow breathes upon my hips and back, her breath warm, sweet, stertorous, moaningeven my spellcheck does not know stertorous, much less an uneducated 17 year old country girl So what is Faulkner doing here Messing with us readers, I think And now, here s Darl, one of the sons Now as this family is the purely uneducated rural poor, how is it one of their sons the one who narrates about half of the book thinks in this lushly textured poetic and highly intellectual language He looks up at the gaunt face framed by the window in the twilight It is a composite picture of all time since he was a child For a while, still, she looks down at him from the composite picture, neither with censure nor approbation Then she flings herself across Addie Bundren s knees, clutching her, shaking her with the furious strength of the young before sprawling suddenly across the handful of rotten bones that Addie Bundren left, jarring the whole bed into a chattering sibilance of mattress shucks, her arms outflung and the fan in one hand still beating with expiring breath into the quilt.She looks down at the face It is like a casting of fading bronze upon the pillow, the hands alone still with any semblance of life a curled, gnarled inertness a spent yet alert quality from which weariness, exhaustion, travail has not yet departed, as though they doubted even yet the actuality of rest, guarding with horned and penurious alertness the cessation which they know cannot last Check out these examples of Darl s vocabulary We go on with a motion so soporific, so dreamlike as to be uninferant of progress, as though time and not space were decreasing between us and it How do our lives ravel out into the no wind, no sound, the weary gestures wearily recapitulantA cubistic bugStarkly re accruentDon t sound like no poor white trash I ever came acrost, dunt know about you Sounds like Marcel damn Proust than Hank Williams Shoot, sounds like this William Faulkner hisself talkin Seems he didn t want to write no normal book but one a them whatchacallem modernist efforts but like he jes couldnt hep hisself had to git that thar poetic jawbreakin stuff in there someways n so turned one a his ole country boys into some kinda god damn genius It doesn t really work, a few pages of Darl and my suspension of disbelief came crashing down and really bruised my left shoulder, I can still feel it now And there s another thing about old Darl He frequently launches off into Deep Space, like this I don t know what I am I don t know if I am or not Jewel knows he is, because he does not know that he does not know whether he is or not He cannot empty himself for sleep because he is not what he is and he is what he is not I had to look round and ask here, who let Samuel Beckett in here Even so, and also taking into consideration a couple of apparent plot holes in the rather too neat O Henryish ending how did bumbling Anse fix up all that in such a short space of time I still loved the bravery and confidence of this novel It ramified my brain, and there is hardly any higher praise It was great 4.5 stars Written in the stream of consciousness mode, As I Lay Dying charts the odyssey of the impoverished Bundren family as its feuding members trek across the wilderness of the rural South toward their county s capital, where they intend to bury the rotting corpse of the family s matriarch The narrative jumps from perspective to perspective, and each character s voice is highly stylized, from the second eldest son s ornate meditations on life and death to the youngest child s simplistic despair over the loss of his mother Often, the novel filters the same event through different characters point of view it disperses the narrative s coherence and forces readers to make sense of conflicting, oft antagonistic viewpoints The story s amalgamation of tragic and comic elements lends the work shifting tones, further thwarting attempts to easily consume the book or understand it as a unified whole Faulkner s experiments in form slow down the pace at which readers can move through the novel he forces his audience, then, to empathize with and dwell in the perspectives of those typically dismissed as white trash. That feeling when you close a book, and it is like you can t breathe, because all the breath of life seems to be stuck in that story, and you just finished it, and there is a vacuum inside That feeling when you try to describe a book, and all the adjectives you come up with are negative, and yet the story has such power, and you loved it, like life.That feeling when you are not sure what to read next, because whatever you pick will carry some of the flavour of the sorrow and the hopelessness and the sadness and the excruciatingly unfair black comedy of uneducated, poor, religious life.That feeling when the novel spills over into real life and makes you hear your heart beat for people that may not exist, but that are real than many of your neighbours That feeling you share with a main character that you aren t sure where the thin line between sanity and insanity is drawn, and whether it is in the eye of the beholder to make a final decision Sometimes I aint so sho who s got ere a right to say when a man is crazy and when he aint Sometimes I think it aint none of us pure crazy and aint none of us pure sane until the balance of us talks him that a way It s like it aint so much what a fellow does, but it s the way the majority of folks is looking at him when he does it That is reminiscent of Emily Dickinson s beautiful poem on madness Much Madness is divinest Sense To a discerning Eye Much Sense the starkest Madness Tis the MajorityIn this, as All, prevail Assent and you are sane Demur you re straightway dangerous And handled with a Chain I LOVED this novel, and it made my stomach turn I don t know what the majority of readers would make of this polyphonic Job s journey or Greek tragic odyssey through a fictional Southern landscape, but I figure I am mad in the Dickinson or Faulkner way There is so much truth in the choir of the voices in the Bundren family, even though each voice alone seems random and mad and disoriented.The underlying social issues, stemming from the hopeless choicelessness of the poor and uneducated people in the rural South, are not explicitly made a topic as in Steinbeck s novels, but rather hinted at in the confused unawareness of those living that life themselves, unable to raise their voices coherently to demand change.Religion hovers above their heads as a stick and a carrot If you do this, you will face eternal punishment , if you suffer through that, God will praise you in heaven Most of the time, the Christian doctrines remain mysterious to the characters, and they can t see why an omniscient and omnipotent god would choose to do what he does to them Has he chosen to let the Devil act to make a 17 year old girl pregnant and to let her be left alone with ten dollars to try to get an abortion And what divine sense of humour makes her fail at that and become a renewed victim of sexual exploitation, while her father takes the ten dollars she kept to get himself new teeth and another woman Getting their mother buried in her hometown exposes the siblings to extreme situations from which they won t all recover Some of them will be marked forever by the strain that forced them to balance on the thin line between madness and sanity I will hear their voices and remember that I walk on that line too To the cast of the play, a huge thank you for letting me join you on the stormy ride Vardaman There s no shame in having a fish for a mother Cash You are a mighty fine man, and a voice of care and reason, and when luck means breaking the same leg twice, you certainly know how to cherish your good star Darl I understand you, that line is mighty thin, especially in times of hardship Dewey Dell You have the future on your side, your daughters and granddaughters will have rights and less vulnerability Jewel There is power underneath your confusion if you can get it sorted Anse Being headless amounts to child abuse Addie Your story is universal Christians and gods the usual cast I ve been working up to a William Faulkner book for years His books always appear on lists of best books of all time and books you should read before you die But when I ve felt in the mood for a classic or something literary , I ve always passed him up for other authors, even those with 1000 page monsters I think, deep down, I always sensed Faulkner just wasn t for me.The first problem is my lack of enthusiasm for stream of consciousness narratives If I m being honest, I rarely like it I don t mind working at a book if it s hard going, but this style of narration makes it difficult for me, personally, to ever settle into the rhythm of the book And Faulkner takes it to a whole new level He drops us into scenes and scenarios without any explanation I genuinely felt like Faulkner wanted to deliberately confuse his readers about characters and ideas he could have easily portrayed in a accessible way Confusion for confusion s sake.Honestly, I can think of little boring than suffering through every thought, feeling and instinct that passes through the human mind I have my own mind that plagues me with this randomness I don t need to read it in someone else s perspective I want an author to organize language into a structure that is interesting, compelling, thought provoking and stream of consciousness, for me, is rarely any of those things.But that s just my tastes for the style Trying to take a step away from that a second and view what the novel did as a whole, I can t say I enjoyed the story Nor do I tend to enjoy books with than two or three perspectives and this one had fifteen In less than three hundred pages The plot follows the Bundren family after the death of their matriarch, Addie Fifteen perspectives tell the story of the family s journey to Jefferson, where Addie is to be buried Hauling a wagon with Addie s decomposing body, the Bundren family sets out on a nine day journey of frequent hunger and discomfort Faulkner includes important themes in his work, such as religion, poverty and identity in the Southern United States, but I still feel like other authors have done this in a palatable way I would much rather read Steinbeck any day.One reviewer said this of Faulkner s style and I couldn t agree It is easy to be confusing It is easy to write something beautiful and understandable for yourself It s hard to write universal words which we can all connect. So, so true.Blog Facebook Twitter Instagram Youtube Where to start with a masterpiece that is both short like the distance between two thoughts and deep as the thoughts themselves This is one of Faulkner s true masterpieces a grotesque road trip with a rotting corpse told in the voices of the extremely dysfunctional and occasionally insane family members It is Ulysses in the Southern United States, or a Georgian Grapes of Wrath Faulkner having been inspired by the former and certainly influenced the latter The writing is some of the most powerful that Faulkner ever produced I would think how words go straight up in a thin line, quick and harmless, and how terribly doing goes along the earth, clinging to it, so that after a while the two lines are too far apart for the same person to straddle from one to the other and that sin and love and fear are just sounds that people who never sinned nor loved nor feared have for what they never had and cannot have until they forget the words.The words leap off the page and both drawn you into their language s inner beauty and repulse you for the violence he depicts It is as visceral as a slaughterhouse complete with awls piercing caskets and yet optimistic than this generation s Walking Dead.One of the greatest American novels ever written and one that will still be as moving and relevant centuries from now as it speaks eternal truth in the American vernacular A must.