I am feeling totally inadequate to the task of reviewing this book. It's only the second Faulkner I've read, and while I enjoyed Absalom, Absalom, it didn't quite utterly astound me the way this one did.
was expecting the run-on sentences and outright rejection of periods
that I found in the last book. Instead, I found short little chapters,
and voices that spoke in terse sentences that only hinted at what lay
This is the story of Addie Bundren, and what happens to
her body after she dies, requesting that her husband, sons and daughter
take her to buried in her hometown. It is the story of her husband,
shiftless, possessive, prideful, self-reliant, and stubborn. Of her
oldest son, Cash, practical, handy, straight-forward. Of her second son,
Darl, the one everyone in the neighbourhood worries about - except the
overly pious next-door neighbour, who is convinced he is the one son who
really loves his mother.
About her third and favourite son,
Jewel, who loves his mother, even if he doesn't show it in ways
acceptable to that nosy neighbour. Who will take nothing from his
father's hand, and finds the only things he does care about bartered
without his knowledge. About her daughter, Dewey Dell, in all kinds of
female trouble, and with few to help. About her youngest son, Vardaman,
who is so traumatized by his mother's death that he becomes convinced
she is a fish.
As I Lay Dying is frequently funny. It often made
me care about the characters, and then, on a dime, made me so
exasperated I could have strangled them. The point-of-view chapters pile
one on top of the other, and each new one lays some new meaning on top
of what I already understood - how someone had misunderstood someone
else, or what one cryptic reference had meant, or a different reason why
the misadventures of the Bundren clan were what they were.
in this book is fucked up. This is revealed, more and more. And
Faulkner is both merciless and compassionate as he airs this dirt-poor
Southern family's peccadilloes. I have no idea how he manages to achieve
both at the same time, but he does.
The chapters frequently
have devastating juxtapositions, but my favourite was the one chapter
from the dead mother's point of view, about the uselessness of words and
the stupidity of those who think that they can explain everything with the next chapter, when a man is riding to her
homestead, intent on using his words to explain everything. I won't
tell more than that, but coming hard on the heels of Addie's chapter, it
tore down everything he said while he said it.
As I Lay Dying is a remarkable achievement. Everyone should read it.