Just Finished: As I Lay Dying

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Prior to reading ‘As I Lay Dying’,I only knew that it was a story revolving around a dying woman surrounded by her children.I was also aware of the stream of consciousness it is very famous for. (Mention ‘stream of consciousness’ in front of any literature aficionado,and he/she will tell you about Faulkner and Woolf – the name of ‘As I Lay Dying’ might even surface.)

It turns out the book is about something more definite.The dying woman wishes to be buried in Jefferson,a faraway land from the place she currently is.As a result,her husband and the kids have to move her body on a wagon and set out for Jefferson.The story is divided into about 54 chapters,each narrated by one particular character – some narrate more than five,others only one.The children also live their own stories,albeit on a much smaller scale.

I had much difficulty getting into the story.Faulkner’s style is devoid of strict punctuation,and no effort is made to avoid the repetitive use of the pronoun ‘he’ even when numerous male characters are involved.Sure thing,he is trying to stick to the essential nature of the stream of consciousness.Also,that Southern accent was annoying much; ‘durn’,’ere’,’kilt’,’hath’,’hit’…are among the many words I had to acquaint myself with.The prose itself was complicated to read.I could follow the story for the most part,but there are certain bits which completely eluded me! Also,many things don’t make sense upon the first read – or upon the second or the third for that matter; why does one character think his brother’s mother is a horse?

Faulkner wrote this story in one flow over 6 weeks without changing anything,yet critics hail this book as a masterpiece.I can’t help myself but think that they are praising the unconventional style more than anything else.I’m not saying the book is horrendous though; I’m sure everything makes sense if read patiently and attentively,but the meaning of things at times seemed too circuitous,hence why Faulkner is framed as a pretentious experimentalist in my mind.

It was not calamitous.I got used to the Southern accent eventually,and the final 60 pages were read more smoothly as a result.Still,the story didn’t amaze me one bit,and I was left unimpressed.To be fair though,I reckon this book is meant to be read over and over with an analytical mind.Hopefully ‘The Sound and the Fury’ will be better.

I’ll add a more formal and detailed review here when I have the time.

What I’m currently reading: One Hundred Years of Solitude 

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18 thoughts on “Just Finished: As I Lay Dying”

  1. Interesting! I’ve been intrigued by this one for a while. Loved Sound and the Fury, but haven’t gotten to this one yet. Either way, thanks for sharing!

    If you’re ever interested in some other great literary tidbits and musings, be sure to follow! Thanks!

  2. I love it that you honestly tell what you think and aren’t scared to criticise the “big” authors – sometimes they’re not so big all the time…

    1. As much I love classics (well,the modern ones),I cannot bring myself to appreciate the techniques of some authors.I love the occasional idiosyncrasies in The God of Small Things and The Inheritance of Loss,two wonderful Booker winners,but I just cannot stand it when the author decides to make the technique the centerpiece of the book – it detracts so much attention from the story,plot and characters!

      Also,there’s this whole hypocrisy thing with such books.If a newbie had attempted such a style,he would’ve been crucified.But just because it’s Faulkner and Joyce,people would rave about the style.To be honest,the rave reviews Ulysses got remind me of those abstract modern art paintings (a dot on a blank canvas,a splash,or something very basic) that get sold for thousands of dollars!!

      1. I couldn’t agree more with you! I have no patience with writers who flaunt the form and forget the content, neither do I approve of modern conceptual “art”. I want to see some genuine effort on the part of the artist, not a concept.

  3. Nice folio edition, indeed 🙂
    Stream of consciousness is not for me. I almost feel like I have to read the book without pausing to keep up with the thoughts.

    1. Ah,I’m glad you like it.
      It was on a sale,and I reminded myself that I needed to read the book,so I picked it.

      I think I can deal with the stream of consciousness.The only thing is I hate it when there’s no punctuation and everything is in a mess! I read a bit of Ulysses some hours ago,and yesterday when I went to a bookshop,I leafed through A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing,and in both books the writing was in havoc,especially in the former!

      1. Yep!
        In Anna Karenina,the stream of consciousness was smooth and a delight to the eyes.In Mrs Dalloway,it was very inventive and surprising.
        But…in As I Lay Dying,it was just terrible,mainly because of the vapid characters and almost stagnant plot!

        Ah,I’ve finished One Hundred Years of Solitude! Honestly its beauty is beyond description….

  4. I’ve been curious about this book for so long. I’ve never read anything by Faulkner yet, but feel that I should. Have you read Virginia Woolf’s “The Waves”? Your description of “As I Lay Dying” makes me think of “The Waves”, with the whole stream of consciousness thing…I gave up on “The Waves” halfway, and was trying to hard to stay focused and get into it—ended up getting so exasperated with that style.
    I guess I might put this one off for a while then 😛
    And please let me know what you think of “The Sound and the Fury” when you do read it! 😀

    And I can’t wait to hear what you think of “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. I wrote a post on it a while back. 🙂

    1. Haha,I remember reading this review of yours!
      Hmm,As I Lay Dying is no smooth read,really.The stream of consciousness along with the Southern accent can be very frustrating.Even the plot is not that great in my eyes; things begin moving only after we’ve been halfway through….

      I’m a bit disappointed after all I’ve heard about Faulkner.I hope The Sound and the Fury will help me forget that awful taste As I Lay Dying left me with…

      Oh sure I’ll also keep you posted once I’m done with One Hundred Years of Solitude! I’m nearly on page 100,and I just can’t stop reading! 😮

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