Book Title: As I Lay Dying
Author: William Faulkner
Original Publication Date: 1930
Edition Read: a very yellowed, falling apart Vintage Books (1964) paperback
Total Pages: 250
Genre: Classic Fiction
Reason Read: Poor memory, a love for Faulkner and my mom
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
“My mother is a fish.” ~ Vardaman (pg. 79) – also known as the shortest chapter ever.
I read this book a long time ago and decided to pick it up and read it again a few years ago since I love Faulner, but couldn’t remember anything about it other than it involved a dead lady being carted around and the fact that it always seems to make my mom laugh.
After re-reading, I would agree with my mom that this book does have it’s share of funny moments. I also find it funny that I read it over Mother’s Day – kind of a weird tribute to moms.
The story, written in 1930 and set in Mississippi (like all good Faulkner tales), essentially covers the last days of Addie Bundrun’s life and the efforts her family makes to cart her body to the town she came from and bury her there as she had requested. Murphy’s Law is all over this sorry bunch of Bundruns and bad timing causes all kinds of delays and calamities to the traveling party and the corpse.
Faulkner employs the stream of consciousness method throughout and though this may be off putting to some, I find it to be a powerful tool to reveal in bits and pieces the inner thoughts and souls of his characters. It is how having a conversation with yourself would sound – rushing through some thoughts so fast words get skipped over – and then stopping short mid-sentence when your train of thought runs smack into a revelation. It is probably the easiest of his books in this style to be exposed to.
The various characters provide their personal vantage points which jump around from one to the other, though overall the story is told chronologically. It seems simple enough of a tale, but it covers all sorts of stirring topics such as religion, sexuality, motherhood, and of course, death.
In the end, the book was entertaining and provides good food for thought. It is tempting to go right back and re-read it again while all the knowledge is still fresh. But then again, going along for the ride of confusion is half the fun with Faulkner.