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