I'm currently reading and enjoying Bloodsucking Fiends, but have decided that my next book will be Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner if anyone wants to join me. If you do, then we can handle it the way Dan and I did Angle of Repose or the way many of us did on The Sound and the Fury. If no one else reads, I'll just post a review at the end.
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner is the story of a very poor white (I thought that they were black!) farming family and their journey to bury their mother/wife.
It's the third in the Sin and Salvation series and it's the companion book to The Sound and the Fury.
It is written in stream of consciousness so isn't an easy read (it IS absolutely fascinating!) but is very much worth the effort. It's a towering work.
The book is divided up into sections of varying lengths, each one being narrated by a different character. That way the reader gets to know each character as the book progresses and the reader does get to see each incident from a different point of view. The timeline - and by that I mean the order in which the events take place - is mostly linear i.e. most of the time the action moves forward in time so not too much jumping backwards and forwards in time which makes it easier to follow.
In a nutshell, the book opens with Addie Bundren (mother and wife) very close to death and continues with her family's attempt to take her body to a town 40 miles away in order to bury her and the reason for same. Like The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying is a description of the degeneration of a family, this time a very poor one.
It's set in Faulkner's favourite and fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi and does feature some characters that have been described in previous books and will be used in future books. This was one of Faulkner's techniques.
Faulkner was always keen to deal with difficult subjects and there are many of those in this book. Some are positively tragic, others are just sad but there are occasions where it's not too dire. The gradual unfolding of the the story and the characters is masterful and makes the reader think (which I enjoy). The narration of the characters makes it feel like the author is not involved at all but Faulkner's voice is loud and clear - contradictory although that sounds. Even if the reader has no idea what the story is about (and I like that too) s/he can hear Faulkner's voice throughout from what feels like a very long way off and the overall message of the book is clear.
I absolutely adored reading this book and will read it again. I found it a lot more sad than The Sound and the Fury even although it's the story of someone who is close to death and of their funereal journey to another town. The characters resonated with me and the whole situation just felt as if it could actually be true.
Highly recommended, it's worth the effort - really it is.
A Rose for Emily is a short story, short as in 17 pages. It's not written in Stream of Consciousness and is about his favourite subject, the life and times of the poor in the Southern States of America. I should point out that the N word is used several times in this story. It was written in 1930 when times were less enlightened. I didn't find it offensive because it seemed to fit the context of the story and taking it out would have made the story weird.
Despite being very short indeed, I finished the story feeling as though I knew all of the characters and their surroundings very well indeed. This, I think, is as a result of Faulkner's prose and insight.
I'm not going to give an overview of the story because that would give too much away but I can say that it's very much worth reading.
Flags in the Dust is Faulkner’s third novel. It was written in 1929 but was rejected by his publisher and twelve others until he reluctantly agreed to heavy cuts being made and it being re-titled Sartoris. He was, at the time, writing The Sound and the Fury so it’s thought that his agent was the one who made the cuts. None of those heavily cut manuscripts survive and the book was re-issued in 1973 as close to the original manuscript as possible with its original title. After his death. This is the text that I read.
The book is not stream of consciousness but that doesn’t make it an easy read, Faulkner makes the reader work hard for his/her enjoyment. The book is about the Sartoris family in a fictional county in Mississippi around the time of the Civil War. The book is divided into five numbered sections which themselves are divided into numbered sections and these are also divided into unnumbered sections. The story is told from each family member’s viewpoint but the family member changes from one unnumbered subsection to another. Despite this the book flows wonderfully and the prose is outstanding.
The challenges are: the reader still has to work hard to establish what is going on, usually confirmed later in the same section and the reader gets to wrestle with the sometimes complicated phrasing of the prose. This took me some time to get used to and I did read some parts of the novel out loud (oh my, that was entertaining) until I got the gist of it. Feeling the words in my mouth as I said them only increased the enjoyment. The characters feel as if they are real and no one numbered large section is devoted to just one character. I’m not sure that there’s a plot per se but the descriptions of the countryside, way of life, and the other people who interact with the family is as outstanding as the prose. In particular we are introduced to a character called Byron Snopes, a bookkeeper. The creepiest part of the whole book and the most compelling. I’m not sure if a Snopes was mentioned in the first two books that Faulkner wrote but I notice that there is a trilogy of books devoted to the family Snopes so I’m looking forward to exploring that.
I took my time with this book as I wanted to savour it and let the story sit with me for as long as possible. The book is challenging so not one to be read on the beach but less demanding than The Sound and the Fury and more than worth the effort.
I wrote much of this post yesterday on my tablet, but kept getting interrupted and finally lost the connection, which was frustrating.
In our discussion of Top 10 books, Mr. Hobgoblin mentioned As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, which sparked a discussion of The Sound and the Fury. Several people indicated a desire to read the book as part of a discussion and I offered to start us off. I think it would be useful to conduct this discussion like Dan and I did Angle of Repose, so that people can check in and give their thoughts and ask questions while they are reading. I think if we take that approach that we need to be careful about spoilers, although frankly I think this book can do with a little spoiling to make it easier to follow.
William Faulkner is a great American author and the great Southern author. He was born in 1897, a little over 30 years after the end of the American Civil War, in Mississippi, which is part of the deepest of the deep South. His Grandfather had fought in the Civil War and he was raised on stories about it. But Mississippi was then, and still is, the poorest State in the Union, finishing last in virtually all measures of education and health, a strong contrast to the former glory that he heard about. Faulkner often explores how a culture that prided itself on the most noble of human virtues could have abased itself into embracing and sacrificing itself for an institution as inhuman as slavery.
He sets many of his books and stories in Yoknapatawpha County, which is based very closely on Lafayette County, Mississippi, where he spent most of his life. The Sound and the Fury is set there, too, and tells the story of the Compson family, formerly Southern aristocrats, now badly fallen in just about every way. From now on, I am going to use spoilers in case some of you wish to read it without any background at all, although, as I say above, I don't really recommend it.
Added 09/09/14: After reading some of the comments from those who tried to read it spoiler-free, I am going to strongly recommend that you read the spoilers, including the ones I added after this post. You can figure out what's going on without them, but you have to work really hard and it will probably affect your enjoyment of the book.
"The Portable Faulkner" which some of you may have in your version of the book gives a 4-page history of the Compson family. Faulkner published it much later, but said he wished he'd published it with the book itself. That might give you a LOT of information, so I could see saving it for the end.
For information about the structure of the book, which I think you can read risk-free:
For information about the first part of the book, which I recommend that you read:
For information about the second part of the book, which I also recommend that you read:
For information about the third part of the book:
For information about the fourth part of the book:
For some interpretations and symbols to watch for:
I've started the Benjy section, but haven't gotten very far.