I chose this book both for the Book Awards Challenge and By the Decades Challenge (1930s), but I have been putting it off for months. I have a bitter-sweet relationship with Faulkner. I am fascinated by him, and in many respects he is one of my favorite American authors (at least non-contemp), but nothing about his writing is straight-forward. Frankly, sometimes his writing is exhausting, which usually tires and bores me, but with Faulkner its almost as if I know he is playing some joke on me and I won’t be made the fool. Anyone reading this who is not a bibliophile is probably thinking, “Cuckoo!” :)
As I Lay Dying is the story of The Bundren family: Anse, Addie, Cash, Darl, Jewel, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman. Addie, the matriarch, is dying, and Cash, the eldest son, is building her casket while she watches. Once Addie dies, the Bundrens make an arduous journey to Jefferson to bury her-a journey which is the key of the story. What I love about Faulkner is his experimentation with point of view; I was first captivated with this years ago when I read The Sound and the Fury. Had I continued with my graduate studies, I probably would have focused on narratology. Throughout As I Lay Dying each character helps narrate the story giving his/her unique perspective on the events–which is why the reading can be so exhausting because the reader constantly has to be the judge of what is really going on and which narrators can be trusted. And Faulkner doesn’t give anything to his reader for free. The reader must work for it (and I did my fair share of secondary reading while working through this book).
Did I like the book? Yes and no. I liked most of it, but it was difficult and sometimes I just need a no-brainer. But I love a good reading challenge. In terms of content? Faulkner is always depressing. I’m not sure if I have ever really liked any of his characters. He loves to show the dark and sinister, which I also like, but come on guy–can’t you give just one character a break?? See what I mean when I say bitter-sweet?