As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text

William Faulkner
“I set out deliberately to write a tour-de-force. Before I ever put pen to paper and set down the first word I knew what the last word would be and almost where the last period would fall.” —William Faulkner on As I Lay Dying As I Lay Dying is Faulkner’s harrowing account of the Bundren family’s odyssey across the Mississippi countryside to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Narrated in turn  by each of the family members—including Addie herself—as well as others the novel ranges in mood, from dark comedy to the deepest pathos.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2021-02-04
3.72
Reviewed: 2020-10-25
"It is dark. I can hear wood, silence: I know them. But not living sounds, not even him. It is as though the dark were resolving him out of his integrity, into an unrelated scattering of components—snuffings and stampings; smells of his colling flesh and ammoniac hair; an illusion of a coordinated whole of splotched hide and strong bones within which, detached and secret and familiar, an is different from my is. I see him dissolve—legs, a rolling eye, a gaudy splotching like cold flames—and float upon the dark in fading solution; all one yet neither; all either yet none. I can see hearing coil toward him, caressing, shaping his hard shape—fetlock, hip, shoulder and head; smell and sound. I am not afraid" (56-57).
Reviewed: 2015-07-14
Rich, descriptive, gritty, harsh prose worth 5 stars for individual chapters, but ultimately fails for trying too hard and is a case study in why to edit sober.

I really wanted to like this more than I did. The prose is, at moments, stunning. The opening narrations draw in the reader with rich description. You can almost taste the sweat, the dirt, the cool water from a cedar bucket.

Ultimately, however, the multi-voiced approach lacks cohesion and narrative direction. The number of voices is at moments overwhelming and at most times simply confusing. Coupled with the pseudo-stream of consciousness, it just seemed like too much.

I think the approach and style could have worked well if just told through the voice's of Addie's five children. However, even that is probably a bit much. Jewel has a natural distance/difference from his siblings that causes his voice to add little to the story. Further, the attempt at Vardaman's voice as a young child makes him seem more mentally handicapped than merely young, and is perhaps the biggest failure of the novel. Thus, I feel like an approach just through the eyes of Darl, Cash, and Dewey Dell would have kept to the spirit and style of the novel while providing a much more cohesive and comprehensible narrative. Any decent editor would have told Faulkner this, yet the novel was published "without changing a word" (not really, but still).

In the end, I can't get myself to give it even 4 stars, let alone the 5 that are warranted by snippets of Faulkner's prose.
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