Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Prongs - Eleventh Review - As I Lay Dying

Hey there loyal readers. Prongs here bringing you my 11th review of As I Lay Dying. Be sure to keep an eye out for a business update sometime this week since Padfoot and I are really putting the pedal to the floor with the literary T-Shirts. I already have a Gravity's Rainbow bag I have been wearing every where trying to get other literary nerds to notice! If you are looking for some more great As I Lay Dying quotes, be sure to check out our tab at the top! Enjoy your humpdays.

"My mother is a fish"
As I Lay Dying
By William Faulkner

For those of you who have never found yourselves jumping at the chance to read a work by Faulkner, I am right there with you. I had tried (unsuccessfully) to read Absalom, Absalom!, or even to enjoy The Sound and the Fury. Both attempts just left me crying out for Henry Miller or god forbid some Salinger; stream of consciousness has never really been my thing, let alone S.O.C paired with bad southern accents. However , maybe it was the 15 character perspectives, or the humorous concepts of death and family that left me satisfied with this work. O.k. I maybe even enjoyed it. As I Lay Dying is the fifth work by William Faulkner and is considered to be one of the works that really established him as a powerhouse writer for his time. It was written in 6 weeks; the title is an allusion to a line in The Odyssey.
"As I lay dying, the woman with the dog's eyes would not close my eyes as I descended into Hades."
The story revolves around the members of the Bundren family that are left with the task of taking their recently departed mother, Addie, to her gravesite in a not so near by town. We meet Vardaman; the youngest of the family, who has trouble dealing with the death of his mother, Dewey Dell; a young girl who has her own reasons for not dealing with the tragedy, and many other flawed characters who are combating with the death in their own unique ways. As this is written in the 30’s, hearses were not overly accessible,
so the family is burdened with the daunting task of taking Addie’s homemade coffin very slowly through the numerous obstacles that are laid out before them. Along the way they face extreme danger, insanity, and nosy neighbors that test their true devotion to the memory of their mother. The challenges that they face with the coffin and with each other, test not only the Bundren’s worth as a family, but their value as human beings.
"I can remember how when I was young I believed death to be a phenomenon of the body; now I know it to be merely a function of the mind--and that of the minds of the ones who suffer the bereavement. The nihilists say it is the end; the fundamentalists, the beginning; when in reality it is no more than a single tenant or family moving out of a tenement or a town."
While Faulkner might be considered the ‘master’ of S.O.C, this is the first work which I ca
n I think he truly began to touch his given title. There are a total of 15 different perspectives given at a very quick pace throughout the work. This is possibly one of the reasons I felt that it was easier to work my way through. The varying perspectives range from the intimate members of the family, to side characters witnessing the darkly humorous events of the funeral procession.
"She prayed for me because she believed I was blind to sin, wanting me to kneel and pray too, because people to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too."
I have never had split personality disorder but I imagine it would read something like this. You are looking at the same situation from multiple viewpoints and at a fairly rapid pace. Just when you feel that you might be able to sympathize or understand one character, you are given the scene from another mindset, which changes your original perception. The pinnacle of the novel revolves around the chapter that is devoted to the vision of Addie from beyond the veil, where she speaks about her concepts of religion and love. The multiple voices, while confusing at times, are weaved together so seamlessly that by the end each segment becomes an indistinguishable part of a beautiful whole.
"He had a word, too. Love, he called it. But I had been used to words for a long time. I knew that that word was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time came, you wouldn't need a word for that anymore than pride or fear. Cash didn't need a word for that anymore than for pride or fear. Cash did not need to say it to me nor I to him, and I would say, Let Anse use it, if he wants to. So that it was Anse or love; love or Anse: it didn't matter."
Overall, I am glad that I could finally come to terms with what is considered to be one of the best authors of all time. This novel is not just about the death of a family member, but is truly about the life of a family and the intimate portrayal of the true reflection of their relations to one another. While I don’t begin to look at this as a fun summer read, it is what I consider to be the best and most transcending work by Faulkner. If you are looking for a place to start with this novelist, I would suggest begin with this work.


  1. I've never read any Faulkner...yet. Someday though.

    So you've read Gravity's Rainbow? I picked it up at the library yesterday. This will be my second shot at it, but the first time I only read two or three pages and was just distracted. Sometimes I like to read books for the sole fact that they are *difficult* books to read. We'll see how it goes.

  2. Ah! I also got stuck in Absalom Absalom! Page 53 or so. Now I kind of dread opening another Faulkner, even though I really want to...

  3. Well I would suggest As I Lay Dying when you do get around to trying him. Probably the easiest to get acquainted with.

    I have not read Gravity's Rainbow yet but have read The Crying of Lot 49 as well as a few of his short stories. I was going to save Gravity's for Winter break when I can really sit down and tackle it. Have you read the Crying of Lot 49? It is still a bit of a brain squeezer, but not nearly as lengthy. I would suggest if Gravity's puts up a bit of a fight, try going with 'Crying'. It is by far one of my favorite books to date. I reviewed it awhile ago, the link is at the top if you are interested.

  4. @ Julie. Honestly start here. I just couldn't do Absalom. It really is such a quick read the story is quite interesting. I suggest for classics to do a bit of background research before diving in. There are so many characters in As I Lay Dying, thus the reason I included the chart at the bottom. If you have a better understanding of the characters and the family tree before you go in, I think it makes the story go by much better, since you are not constantly flipping back trying to remind yourself who is who.

  5. I read this my junior year of high school and loved it to pieces. It influenced my writing so much, and taught me that not all books were stupid, which I'd pretty much taken to thinking at the time with all the crap people suggested to me. Faulkner won a special place in my heart, and though I didn't enjoy the Sound and the Fury as much (nor have I read anything else by him), I will always remember this one fondly.

    One of your shirts should say My mother is a fish. That's the line everyone remembers. :)

  6. We actually were thinking about that!! We were trying to think of some more 'classic' shirt and someone made a suggestion of that line. I will be sure to let you know if we get one up!

    Glad to hear that you liked it so much. I have had quite a few people scold me for saying that I did not like this as much as The Sound and The Fury, so I am glad we are in the same boat!

  7. *shrug* Sound and Fury is much more difficult, though I've been told it's better if you read the books in reverse order.

  8. I don't know ... this just sounds like too much work!!!

  9. Hi we enjoyed reading your blog, me and my husband love this stuff! Great information and we've added you to our favorites!
    Thanks Michele

  10. I have to admit: I really enjoyed reading The Sound and the Fury when I read it a few years ago. Since I liked it, I thought I'd check out another of his books: Absalom, Absalom! I didn't finish it, and I didn't try to read any more of Faulkner's work again.

    But,after reading this, I'll give it another go. As I Lay Dying sounds like a pretty good read. (I like the short excerpts you chose.) When I get the chance, I'll check it out.

    Thanks for writing this!

  11. Um no... Thank you for reading it! I am glad that this inspired you to pick up Faulkner again. Im right there with you on Abslom. Just couldn't do it. Maybe someday I will give The Sound another try. something about it just wasn't working for me the first time around. however As I lay Dying def. opened me up to him a bit more as a writer.

    If you like the excerpts be sure to check out the quotes page where there are a few more!

  12. 'My mother is a fish' - One of the greatest chapters I've read, and definitely the shortest..
    I read this a few years ago, it was tough going, as an English lass trying to get into the swing of the rich southern drawl. But I remember finding it a really touching portrayal of a family, and I loved this chapter for being childlike in its simpicity, yet dark at the same time with the despair of never fully comprehending death. He really gets you into the mind of each character.

    I came across your blog earlier, been trawling through it. It's great! I'm new to blogging, but if you have chance please see

    Keep it up girls!

  13. Yes I am a huge fan of this book as a whole. I wasn't sure I would ever like Falkner but AILD proved me wrong.

    You are right in that he really does get you into the mind of each character. Like I said in the review it felt a bit like having a split personality disorder (a 13 person disorder!) His use of stream of consciousness paired with the beauty of the prose just made it such an enjoyable experience.

    We will be sure to ceck out your blogs!


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