Something That Probably Shouldn’t Be a First

I finished book #76 tonight and it was a classic that I probably should have read already, but it was never assigned and I’ve never been too focused on regional classics, plus I am the least informed about/interested in (no offense) the south.

Despite all of that, I really loved my first* William Faulkner, which was As I Lay Dying. WHOA hold up, I just linked to Faulkner’s bio I saw that he wrote “A Rose For Emily,” a crazy good short story that I remember reading and loving in high school. So I stand corrected, turns out this is *my second Faulkner.

Anyway, AILD is the story of a family and their journey to bury the recently-deceased matriarch, per her request, back in her hometown of Jefferson, Mississippi. Jefferson is a fictional town that Faulkner writes about frequently; it’s also where “ARFE” takes place.

Addie Bundren is alive but sick at the beginning of the novel, bed-ridden while the whole family prepares for her death. One of her 5 children builds a coffin for her right outside her bedroom window and updates her on its progress, also per her request. Weird lady.

The story is told from several different perspectives, but most often we hear from one of her children or her husband. There are a few chapters that come from various members of the town, and even one from Addie herself.

So obviously this book is good (books written by those who many consider among the all-time greatest writers are rarely bad), and I get why it’s a classic and why it’s studied as often as it is. Faulkner wrote this book in about 8 weeks, too, adding to its legacy.

I loved the switching perspectives, especially because I love observing families and their behavior with and toward one another. The Bundren family was dysfunctional at best and volatile at worst, and the chapter from Addie especially proves that.

I looked at that chapter as a sort of plot twist, because over 150 pages into this family’s incredibly difficult and tense trip to bury Addie, the reader sees that Addie was kind of the worst, with all due respect. She was a hardened and bitter woman who didn’t love her children or her husband or really anything, it would seem. Granted, she lived during a time and in a place when women really got the raw end of an all-around bad deal, but still. She kind of sucked.

So then you’re back in the present, and you see her husband going to the ends of the earth and endangering his entire family for Addie, to fulfill her wish, but now you realize that she didn’t care much for any of these people who are now risking their lives for her dead body.

Anyway, that was a tangent but that was one of the several things I really loved about this book. Since this is such a classic, I feel pressured to present a thesis on the symbolism of Darl’s lapse into insanity in the absence of a maternal figure or something.

But then I remember I’m no longer an English major and I get to read for fun, so I’ll just settle on the fact that this was a truly great read. ◊

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 the lack; that when the right time came, you wouldn’t need a word for that anymore than for pride or fear.”

– page 172

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