As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Reviewed by Shoko Iwata, Guilty Conscience Book Club...take our poll!

(January 5, 2006) As I Lay Dying The Larchmont Public Library's Guilty Conscience Book Club in December tackled William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, the story of Addie Bundren, her death and her family's difficult journey to bury her. Of the eight readers who were at the library discussion, two had never read Faulkner before, and some found the style and the subject matter challenging. Others found much to admire about the writing.

The discussion focused to a great extent on the author. The Mississippi native wrote As I Lay Dying in a fortnight while working as a night attendant at the University of Mississippi when he was a student there. The book, published in 1930, is a tragicomedy told in very short chapters, with characters in the story as the chapter titles. Faulkner refers to sections of Homer's Odyssey and also works by Albert Camus. To follow the story, for those who didn't know anything about country folks in Mississippi, it was important for readers to understand how death was treated in Faulkner's South.

Faulkner portrayed the dying woman, Addie, her husband, Anse, and the children in a unique way. The book definitely leaves a flavor of country life that remains on the reader's palate. As Northern suburbanites, the book club members tried to make sense of the story, but there was much to puzzle over and a lot to laugh at.

The group concluded that Faulkner wrote well and communicated the South to his readers. However, not everyone liked the book. One person considered Anse to be extremely selfish. The characters' lack of information and education appalled others. The cruelty demonstrated in this book seemed operatic at times. Another found it difficult to read this particular story of dying; it was felt this might not be a good book for a person in the twilight years of life.

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