As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner: A Review

Posted 7 October, 2007 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 13 Comments


Title: As I Lay Dying
Author: William Faulkner
Date Finished: October 6, 2007
Pages: 261
Rating: 3.5/5

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?

13 Responses to “As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner: A Review”

  1. I haven’t read any Faulkner yet. The owner of our local used book store said Faulkner was his least favorite classics author so I keep putting it off.

  2. *J. Kaye – Most of my friends dislike Faulkner…

    *Petunia – I think that the reason why I like Faulkner so much is because I had to do a lot of projects on him for various classes. But his writing is not easy and I can understand why so many people don’t like his style/fiction. You might start with his short stories. Barn Burning and A Rose for Emily are some of my favorites (and frequently found in short story anthologies).

  3. cj

    Trish –

    Well, you don’t make me anxious to run out and read him. But, he’s still on my list of ‘important’ authors I feel I should read.


  4. The only thing I’ve read by Faulkner were some short stories. He does sound like a fascinating author – challenging to read, but ultimately rewarding. I think that I must give his novels a try.

  5. Color me admiring that you managed to get through a Faulkner without a literature class hounding you to do so. I know I read this one for high school & I definitely found it tiresome and exhausting. (The only part I do like is the unremitting darkness of his worldview! :) )

  6. *CJ – don’t start with this one!! I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard that Light in August is one of his more accessible books.

  7. *Kimmie – you are brave for picking this one to read first. I’m afraid you won’t read anything else by him…

    *Nymeth – I think I prefer his short stories, but I did really enjoy The Sound and the Fury. Sanctuary was too too dark.

    *Kristen – Well, I did refer to Sparknotes online about a million times while reading it. :) I would read a few chapters then look at the notes. I think I would have only gotten a fraction of a fraction of the book otherwise.

  8. Those kinds of books are the ones that really stay with you. I saw it at the used book store in Detroit this Monday, but didn’t pick it up.

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  10. I really struggle with Faulkner. I’ve tried several of his books once or twice, and never could get it. My father says he’s a great writer, so I keep intending to go back and try again. Maybe now that it’s been ten years since my last attempt, I should try reading him again.

  11. *Jeane – I wouldn’t necessarily call Faulkner easy nor pick him up for a pleasure read. Most of what I have read has been for various college courses, so I’ve had lots of help with his themes–which sometimes are hidden behind the narration. I appreciate his work and will continue reading it because it stretches me (and I find him fascinating), but I struggle as well. :)