by William Faulkner
The more I read, the more I seem to catch while reading. It wasn’t until my second read-through of Naked Lunch that I really feel I began to appreciate it, and even the recent rereading of Animal Farm really made me feel that at least some of my study of literature is sticking with me. And then I encounter something like As I Lay Dying, which I emerged from misunderstanding large portions. Perhaps it has more to do with not yet reading it a second time, but I think I can attribute at least some of this to the story’s ambiguous narrative and the rich symbolism the author employs.
As I Lay Dying is an account of the Bundren family as they attempt to withhold the final wish of their newly deceased wife and mother, Addie, by bringing her remains to her hometown as a final resting place. A different character acts as narrator by each chapter, and that gives this story a great deal of its charm. Everyone has a very clear and unique voice that Faulkner is careful to maintain as the story progresses, and we get a good picture of how each sees the others and the world around them, as well as how they deal with the numerous harrowing situations they’re forced to cope with. Description is clearly another of Faulkner’s strengths; he provides specific details that appeal to all the senses, making the world vividly come alive. Add in a great profundity delivered through some of the most elegant prose I have ever had the pleasure of reading, and it’s clear to see the beauty in Faulkner’s work, even if I walk away with some lack of understanding.
In short, As I Lay Dying is a wonderful novel and it’s unsurprising, to me, that Faulkner should be so highly regarded. If you have yet to experience it, it comes with my highest recommendation.