Faulkner, or Three Things to Love About As I Lay Dying

Last summer, I agreed to my friend Jacqui’s challenge to read 15 Classics in 15 Weeks. I’ve not kept pace, but I have persisted — and today I finished William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying.

I picked it for two reasons: one, because I was reading Hemingway, and as I recall the two crossed words now and again, and two, because it is told stream-of-consciousness, and I thought it might warm me up for James Joyce’s Ulysses. (As I’m writing this, I realize how poorly read I am: I’m not sure these connections make any sense at all, since I am making them all second- and third-hand.)

At any rate, I enjoyed Faulkner a great deal, although the story and characters aren’t particularly lovely or lovable. That’s part of the genius, I reckon …

And so, Three Things to Love About As I Lay Dying:

  • The Family. The Bundrens are quite the lot. Simple and canny, ugly and magnificent, pitiful and hard-as-nails. You can’t help but pull for them, even though at times they don’t seem to have a lick of sense — like their neighbors, you feel you must help them, even as you shake your head. They muddle along and survive. They persist.
  • The Method. The story unfolds character-by-character, just as it unfolds to their individual minds and senses. Stream-of-consciousness isn’t always easy to follow, but Faulkner makes it fascinating, and each character’s inner workings sing clear and true, if not always in harmony with the others.
  • The Time and The Place. How best to drink from the water bucket. How to get a frightened mule out of a burning barn. How to attempt a river crossing with the bridge out, and how to find woodworking tools lost in the flood. How two drowned mules roll and wash up on a river’s bend. Faulkner describes country life in loving and stark detail.

Next up: Homer’s The Odyssey, then Joyce’s Ulysses.

One thought on “Faulkner, or Three Things to Love About As I Lay Dying

  1. Mmm. I love your description of the family being like your neighbors. I did Light in August instead, but I think March might be right to settle into some Faulkner I can take more than a week to read.

    I think this summer I will do a “one classic in one summer” challenge…


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