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As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner

Reading classics is so hit or miss. Will I like them and understand what all the fuss is about, or will I be one of the one's scratching their head and thinking "So what?"   And yes, I did enjoy this novel, but I would need to read it again just to get all of the subtle references that I missed the first time around.  There are so many times that I was basically wondering what the hell was going on.  Then the next chapter (and of course, someone else’s perspective) would clear things up.  Maybe and then again maybe not.  Sometimes I still didn’t know what some character was referring to. 

 

The different viewpoints really do help to figure out the story, although some are pretty much just distracting instead of helpful, like Vardaman’s.  Darl is supposed to be the son that is different and everybody thinks is crazy, but my vote is for Vardaman.  Anyone who thinks that their mother turned into a fish after she died isn’t quite right.  Possibly he’s just very young and the trauma of losing her makes his imagination run wild, but we are never told his age so I think he’s just not right in the head. 

 

The whole Bundren family is several cents short of a dollar when it comes down to it. Trying to take a dead body through a flooded area in a mule-drawn cart with all of the local bridges washed out is the first example of utter stupidity.  Pouring cement onto the recently broken leg of the oldest son because riding in the rickety cart is pretty unbearable, despite his protestations that it isn’t really any bother, is another.  Of course they didn’t have time to take him to a real doctor to get the leg set because they were in a hurry to get eight-days-dead mama buried.  All of this stupidity is irritating, but it is all really just the fault of the no-good, piece of shit husband, Anse, who will not even consider burying his wife at home.  He promised her he would bury her in her hometown with her family and he will stick to that promise no matter what.  He insists the entire time that the promise is the reason he has to take her back to her family’s hometown, but it’s really because of what he will get when he gets there.  He puts his entire family through all of that shit because he is such a lazy, selfish bastard.  You just have to read it to see what I mean.  Even with all of the stupid things done by this family, you just can’t help but feel really bad for them.  They are about as pitiful a group of people as you’ll ever read about.

 

This is the second consecutive book I’ve read in the stream of consciousness genre.  As I Lay Dying was much easier to get through than To the Lighthouse.  Lighthouse has all the philosophical musings that take time to parse whereas this novel is much more of each person relating what he/she did or said and far less of each character's thoughts.  Except for Vardaman's thoughts which are just crazy.  And then there is Addie’s chapter which is full of her personal philosophy about words and that's fun to read because she is the dead mother.  Even though I enjoyed this novel,  I won't be coming back to this genre for a while because it is never really that easy.