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80 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pilgrim's Progress to the Promised Land
Faulkner's great accomplishment in this novel is to use the most modern fiction techniques to create a timeless allegory that we would probably not accept in a different style. His other great achievement is to leave so much space in the story for us to participate in adding meaning. You have to pay attention to even notice what is going on, and then you can provide a...
Published on 5 Sep 2004 by Donald Mitchell

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stream of consciousness written in Deep South vernacular. Phew!
Novels written in the vernacular can be problematic for the outsider. When they are additionally narrated in a pre-war stream of consciousness style and by a number of different individuals the difficulties are magnified. Of course, that is the point of the book: to convey the emotions and reactions of different members of a family about the same event; the event being...
Published on 25 Sep 2007 by Trevor Coote


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80 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pilgrim's Progress to the Promised Land, 5 Sep 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 122,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: As I Lay Dying (Mass Market Paperback)
Faulkner's great accomplishment in this novel is to use the most modern fiction techniques to create a timeless allegory that we would probably not accept in a different style. His other great achievement is to leave so much space in the story for us to participate in adding meaning. You have to pay attention to even notice what is going on, and then you can provide a variety of interpretations. This novel will never be the same for any two readers. It is a stunning accomplishment, as a result.
The story begins as Addie Bundren lays dying, fanned by her daughter, while her son makes her coffin. With her husband and five children, we make her acquaintance by learning about their actions and characters. Only once does she have a role as a narrator, and then, quite late in the story.
Her husband, Anse, has promised her that he will bury her with her family. Because of tremendous rains, the river has risen, knocking out bridges and making passage difficult. Despite this, the family perseveres in taking her unembalmed body to the intended burial site. Along the way, there are many mishaps and the family is burdened in many ways by keeping this promise. As the burial comes closer, new elements of the story are exposed and develop that totally recast what you have thought was going on.
The story is a difficult one to read. So read this book when you have time to pay close attention and study the text word by word. Let me explain the difficulties you will encounter. First, the voices in the book use a Southern patois that will be unfamiliar to most. This is the language of the rural poor in the 1930s, which few have heard. Second, the exposition is mostly through thoughts, often expressed in fragmentary form, rather than through action and a smooth narrative. Third, the narration is a partial mosaic of impressions of the characters, jumping back and forth in 2-4 page segments. Their perceptions are partial, and even more partially expressed. Objectivity is shunned by Faulkner. Fourth, Faulkner wants you to fill in the gaps, and the best way to do that is to expose the gaps slowly. Only after 3 or 4 narrations by characters will the gaps begin to emerge in a way you can grasp them. Then, you still have to interpret them.
Few readers will miss the references to Moses and his search for the promised land, and the Christian parable of the Pilgrim's Progress. What is unstated is the connection to reading this book. Many poor Southern people of that time were taught to read with The Pilgrim's Progress as a primer. That experience helped to shape a perception and a sensibility that would influence their actions, and thus, this tale. That connection creates a wonderful series of circles here that build on one another.
At bottom though, it is clear from this book that there are secrets of the heart that are never exposed in public. When we come close to dying (our own or someone else's), these secrets begin to rise closer to the surface where we (and sometimes others) can see them.
Faulkner has one quirk in the book that I urge you to look for. While he is often conveying the thoughts of uneducated people, he will drop in magnificent phrases that are worthy of Shakespeare. He wants you to know that he is a learned man, hiding behind his humble bards. That pride creates flaws in the book, but flaws that are a delight to the reader, nevertheless. In fact, he takes this one step further by employing many of Shakespeare's favorite techniques from foreshadowing through nature's fury through using fools.
After you have read this book, I encourage you to consider what secret desires, actions, fears, and thoughts you have which you keep buried even from yourself. Then consider the potential benefits of making these known, before you lay dying.
Also, whenever things seem confused, consider how others may be perceiving what is going on. Like Vardeman, they too may think their mother is a fish. Accept their view of reality, and communicate in terms of that perception if you want to make contact. Otherwise, you will be alone even in the middle of your family, as the Bundrens were in As I Lay Dying.
Enjoy this American masterpiece! I think you'll find it irresistible and moving.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and revelatory, 10 Dec 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: As I Lay Dying (Mass Market Paperback)
This is a compelling novel, as well as a literary masterpiece.
The death of Addie Bundren in the country, and the desparately hard and bitter journey to bury her in the town of Jefferson, is told primarily through the voices of her husband and five children. The force of the novel comes through the narrative structure - by employing the different voices of his characters, Faulkner paints a vivid picture of the time, the country and, particularly powerfully, the hostilities and bonds within the family.
The plot is delicately unravelled and wholly satisfying. Any reader - with a passion for reading - will find this book gripping and profoundly affecting.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most exciting book I've read in years, 21 Nov 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: As I Lay Dying (Mass Market Paperback)
This is a truly exceptional book. Faulkner takes the fragmentary narrative approach of 'The Sound and The Fury' to its logical conclusion in this astonishing book, in which we see through the eyes of virtually every character. The most strikingly modern approach to charcterisation I've ever read, and this in a novel published in 1930! I think it is Faulkner's best work.
If you want a novel that will rejuvenate your love of literature, then read this book.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why are you laughing Darl?, 28 Aug 2001
This review is from: As I Lay Dying (Mass Market Paperback)
"As I Lay Dying" is hard work. The plot; the last journey of Addie Bundren as her rotting corpse is carted through the Deep South to be buried with her family; is told by several narrators. These are her children, her husband, her neighbours and even people who are not involved very much with the plot. This tennis-match narration is made even harder by the fact that the narrators are often insane (one central narrator is eventually incarsarated in a lunatic assylum), simple-minded or withholding information from the reader. Due to this large tracts of the plot are obscure. Moreover the stream-of-consciousness narration, often filled with cubist or surrealist imagery, makes some passages unreadable (at one point a narrator comes out with a 14-line sentance). Yet despite this, AILD is The Great American Novel. Stick with it & its very rewarding. It is a dark, bleak epic, rich with the lore of the Deep South & underpinned by threads of black humour. Seeing the novel's events from a kalidoscopic viewpoint is (albeit unrealistic as some of the language is too poetic for traditional rednecks) also appropriate in contributing to the novels' themes of the tricks of awareness & self-identity. A beautiful novel, written with genius.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stream of consciousness written in Deep South vernacular. Phew!, 25 Sep 2007
By 
Trevor Coote "Trevor Coote" (Tahiti, French Polynesia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: As I Lay Dying (Mass Market Paperback)
Novels written in the vernacular can be problematic for the outsider. When they are additionally narrated in a pre-war stream of consciousness style and by a number of different individuals the difficulties are magnified. Of course, that is the point of the book: to convey the emotions and reactions of different members of a family about the same event; the event being the death of the southern matriarch Addie Bundren whose decaying body is transported far away to her home town for burial as she had requested. The journey consists of a series of grotesque and darkly humorous mishaps as relationships, disputes and bonds between family and neighbours are gradually revealed in around sixty extremely brief chapters of narration. It takes some unravelling and is really a question as to whether or not the reader feels it is all worthwhile. Maybe it is - just.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Persevere, it's worth it!, 24 Jun 2011
By 
Marjorie (Saffron Walden, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: As I Lay Dying (Mass Market Paperback)
This powerful and relatively brief novel, written from many different viewpoints, is about the tribulations of an American family before and following the death of the mother. (I would strongly suggest that any reader first consults notes from a literature course - I found a great online set of notes -- in order to understand as much as possible from a first reading.) I like this novel better than The Sound and the Fury. But was it an enjoyable read? No, in the sense that it was hard work. And was it worth while putting in the effort? Yes, most emphatically, and there is some wonderful writing here.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, 7 Mar 2011
By 
K. R. Donnan "Kieran Donnan" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: As I Lay Dying (Mass Market Paperback)
It's been some time since reading a novel that struck me so, what with the characters so varied in age and perspective but ultimately cursed with the same limited empathy for those around them. William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying is a story about a woman, Addie Bundren, who is dying and is told through the thoughts of those that surround her; her husband, her children, her neighbours, people who liver further off and those whom meet the Bundren family as they carry the dead body of the mother and wife to its destination in Jefferson.

The story is not a savage indictment of the selfishness of people, it isn't an indictment at all. Much like previously reviewed Absalom, Absalom! the characters present the faults but they cannot be condemned for them because it's a fact that everyone has them. Perfect, then, to take a quote from that novel and place it here:

"You get born and you try this and you don't know why only you keep on trying it and you are born at the same time with a lot of other people, all mixed up with them, like trying to, having to, move your arms and legs with strings only the same strings are hitched to all the other arms and legs and the others all trying and they don't know why either except that the strings are all in one another's way like five or six people all trying to make a rug on the same loom only each one wants to weave his own pattern into the rug; and it can't matter, you know that, or the Ones that set up the loom would have arranged things a little better, and yet it must matter because you keep on trying or having to keep on trying and then all of a sudden it's all over."

Faulkner succeeds in As I Lay Dying to create a patchwork narrative through the voices and thoughts of quickly changing characters, regardless of their moral substance or their practical influence in the novel. The idea is not to tell the story in vivid detail, plant it with imagery and stick to an overall objective; the idea is to have a look at how the characters in the story respond to death. Some respond with self pity, especially Anse Bundren, the husband of the dead wife:

"I have heard men cuss their luck, and right, for they were sinful men. But I do not say it's a curse on me, because I have done no wrong to be cussed by. I am not religious, I reckon. But peace is my heart: I know it is. I have done things but neither better nor worse than them that pretend otherlike, and I know that Old Marster will care for me as for ere a sparrow that falls. But is seems hard that a man in his need could be so flouted by a road."
- Anse Bundren

This is a darkly comical insight into the conceited manner in which the husband thinks only of himself, then makes a reference to something altogether unrelated- a new road built through his village which offends his sensibilities. Anse is concerned with his own relation to the divine and doesn't seem concerned for his wife; his only concern seems to be fulfilling a promise to bury her in Jefferson, her home town. Principles rather than genuine feeling or devotion; the allegation of an undevoted husband stands tall without even needed to be stated in fact.

Other characters regard the situation from what they view as superior ground, from their own faithfulness in God which is superior because it is more humble. Strangely enough, Cora Tull, the Bundrens' neighbour and friend insists upon her moral high ground without realising that in so declaring herself in closer reach of the divine, she demonstrates her own vanity and lack of humility:

"Because it is not us that can judge our sins or know what is sin in the Lord's eyes. She has had a hard life, but so does every woman. But you'd think from the way she talked that she knew more about sin and salvation than the Lord God Himself, than them who have strove and labored with the sin in this human world."
- Cora Tull

The children in the story are all growing at their own pace and the event of Addie Bundren's death precipitates events in their lives which may not have happened or which could have been avoided. Anse Bundren's blindness and his vacuous intentions to have his wife buried in Jefferson plunge his family into varying levels of despair and suffering, the troubled journey of their carriage darkly comic in overall effect. What is the overall effect of the journey? Overall, one might confidently say, the family is split and the father only secures his role as the head of the family, regardless of his stupidity and blindness, by stubbornness and vanity.

The story is tragic, yet comic in style. It depends whether the reader wishes to treat the superstition, flawed nature and selfishness of each character as merely tragic or amusing insights into human behaviour. It is certainly a dark story but its purpose is really a lesson of insight and understanding; perhaps the father of the family is more flawed that the rest of them; perhaps the wife wasn't as she was perceived; perhaps people shouldn't be trusted at their word. Really, simply lessons and no mistake. But in the context and in the way that the conequences of vanity, stubbornness and superstition are portrayed the effect is a wonderful landscape of insight.It makes one wish that in every day life one could perceive the thoughts of others.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Comedy and Psychological Realism, 2 Nov 2007
This review is from: As I Lay Dying (Mass Market Paperback)
I just got thru reading As I Lay Dying for a college class. As I have read no other Faulkner, I cannot compare this with his other works. Although it takes time to get adjusted to it, the novel itself is grand, a tour de force as Faulkner called it. The family experiences Addie's loss.
Each character is fully realized, and every last one of them (in the family, anyway) is insane. Jewel is constantly cursing and using violence to express his love and anger. This is in direct relationship with his mother, because she did so with him. The very thing that defines him is when he calls his horse "You sweet son of a b----". That he how he relates to the world. He is a very angry young man, and cannot express himself properly without resorting to foul language.

Darl is a very interesting character. Although you may not catch it less you are paying attention, he has a telepathic ability, to read into people's mind. He is very perceptive. So perceptive, in fact, that in one chapter in the first part he describes what is happening at the house as Addie Bundren dies, and he and Jewel are away from the house selling materials. His relationship with Addie is strained at best. She loves Jewel best. In manner of speech, Addie and Darl are closest, being very poetic in speech.

Cash is 28/29 and Vardaman's age isn't given. He is a little boy. Cash makes the casket for his mother. Vardaman becomes very confused during the duration of the novel, because he catches a fish in the beginning. The fish dies and they eat it (this is a correlation of the family being like buzzards during the journey). One chapter consists of a single sentence. "My mother is a fish". It is also foreshadowing of one of the more comic events in the novel. Darl says of Jewel, whose relationship with his horse is based after his relationship with his mother, that his mother is a horse, speaking metaphorically. Vardaman takes that literally also. If Jewel's mother can be a horse, he insists his mother can be a fish.

Tull is the only sane one in the story, and he is not a member of the family. He is a neighbour who is helping with the family. Cora, his wife, serves God in a cliche way, and is generally niave. Brother Whitaker, without revealing too much of the plot, is important. Anse, the father, is hilarious. He says he cannot sweat because of some illness he got when he was 20. He won't do a damn thing. He won't be "beholden" to any man, which he says all the time. But he really doesn't want to do anything, and wants others to do it for him.

Dewey Dell is a very simple creature. She gets pregnant, and wants to have an abortion. She doesn't understand morality. Her intellect pales in comparison to Darl's; however, they have a psychic link together. Someone like this God would not judge harshly, because she does not have understanding.

Addie Bundren in the single most important character in the novel. Her chapter is a little past the center of the novel. The reason, one interpretation goes, is that Addie is like the spoke of a wheel, where the spoke is in the center, and everything is connected to it and comes out of it. She is a very hateful person. Although very poetic, she hates words, thinking them meaningless.

Sex to the Bundren family is not governed by morality (or at least they don't think it is). My teacher likened it to barnyard sex: animals are not governed by morality, and they just have sex. This is much the approach of this family, although of course they are wrong. Man is above animals, and morality governs this matter. Dewey Dell, of which much of the imagery associated with her is sexual, is very simple and knows nothing of sexual morality. Her name suggests her simpleton sexuality. Dewey Dell means "Moist Valley". Not to much of a stretch of an imagination to know what that means. She gets pregnant by Lafe. Dewey Dell is such of limited intelligence that she goes to the pharmacy at the end of the novel to get an abortion. The soda jerk tells her to come back, and then he has sex with her. She curses afterward, saying that won't cure anything. Darl and Cash masturbated while growing up. Addie is still lonely even though she has sexual relations with her husband, so goes elsewhere to find it. (Her children were there to cure her loneliness. An important lesson is lurking here: sex and children are two of the most precious gifts from God: they are exactly that - gifts. One must know Christ to have a truly fulfilled life).

Dark humour is very prevalent thruout the entire novel. Everything from Addie making her water trip to Anse getting those teeth to them dragging the body, stinking up everything, the novel is hilarious. Anse says he owes it to Addie to take her there, saying he won't disgrace her. Yet the whole journey is disgraceful. It is one of the funniest books in a dark sense that I have read in a long time. To speak to much of this would ruin some of the moments; but rest assured, if you properly imagine the events, it should strike you quite funny.

In conclusion, Faulkner has created a portrait dysfunctional family. He said he wrote this, and knew if he never picked up a pen again he would live or die (reputation wise) by this book. (Quote paraphrased) He also does his stream of conscious and multiple narrators, making this foray notable because of it. Each is fully drawn, with excellent psychological realism. The characterization is excellent. Read it.

Originally issued on Amazon.com May 15, 2000
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read, 8 Feb 2014
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: As I Lay Dying (Mass Market Paperback)
I will admit that this is probably still my favourite Faulkner novel, and indeed what he does here is sheer genius. By writing in a multiple narrative style, using the vernacular, and stream of consciousness you probably end up with a greater feeling for all the characters than if this had been written in a more conventional style. If I remember rightly Faulkner himself was very pleased with this novel, and I believe that it was one that he wrote at night.

The story itself is quite easy to get into. At the very beginning of this Addie Bundren is lying on her deathbed, soon to pass away. Her husband says that her body has to be taken to Jefferson where she came from, as she wishes to be buried with her family. This in itself is rather telling, as normally in marriages she would have been buried locally, and then her husband would join her on his burial. It is such little things like this, as well as more major things that really make this novel work. And despite it being about the death and the burial of Addie this book isn’t all doom and gloom. Faulkner herein produced a finely crafted tragicomedy.

From the beginning of this you just know that you will be in for some laughs, albeit black comedy, as you read how Addie is on her deathbed, and her coffin in being made outside her window, comically macabre in itself. But after Addie has died the comedy increases. With the body having to be transported to her final resting place it would seem like a journey by cart of a few days, but with the after effects of a storm, it becomes something more like a long trek, akin to the Israelites leaving Egypt.

A gripping read there is so much to take in here as we find out more about all the characters in this book, and what makes them tick. Tragic and even bittersweet in places, this is also humorous and thought provoking, as well as very moving. I won’t give anything away, but the ending to this is something that most definitely is inspired. If you are deciding on a book for a book group read then this is one that perhaps should be considered, after all there is a lot to discuss here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Comedy and Psychological Realism, May 14, 2000, 8 Jan 2012
[NOTE: I am reissuing my Amazon.com reviews on Amazon.co.uk. This review was originally published on Amazon.com May 14, 2000]

I just got thru reading As I Lay Dying for a college class. As I have read no other Faulkner, I cannot compare this with his other works. Although it takes time to get adjusted to it, the novel itself is grand, a tour de force as Faulkner called it. The family experiences Addie's loss.

Each character is fully realized, and every last one of them (in the family, anyway) is insane. Jewel is constantly cursing and using violence to express his love and anger. This is in direct relationship with his mother, because she did so with him. The very thing that defines him is when he calls his horse "You sweet son of a b----". That he how he relates to the world. He is a very angry young man, and cannot express himself properly without resorting to foul language.

Darl is a very interesting character. Although you may not catch it less you are paying attention, he has a telepathic ability, to read into people's mind. He is very perceptive. So perceptive, in fact, that in one chapter in the first part he describes what is happening at the house as Addie Bundren dies, and he and Jewel are away from the house selling materials. His relationship with Addie is strained at best. She loves Jewel best. In manner of speech, Addie and Darl are closest, being very poetic in speech.

Cash is 28/29 and Vardaman's age isn't given. He is a little boy. Cash makes the casket for his mother. Vardaman becomes very confused during the duration of the novel, because he catches a fish in the beginning. The fish dies and they eat it (this is a correlation of the family being like buzzards during the journey). One chapter consists of a single sentence. "My mother is a fish". It is also foreshadowing of one of the more comic events in the novel. Darl says of Jewel, whose relationship with his horse is based after his relationship with his mother, that his mother is a horse, speaking metaphorically. Vardaman takes that literally also. If Jewel's mother can be a horse, he insists his mother can be a fish.

Tull is the only sane one in the story, and he is not a member of the family. He is a neighbour who is helping with the family. Cora, his wife, serves God in a cliche way, and is generally niave. Brother Whitaker, without revealing too much of the plot, is important. Anse, the father, is hilarious. He says he cannot sweat because of some illness he got when he was 20. He won't do a damn thing. He won't be "beholden" to any man, which he says all the time. But he really doesn't want to do anything, and wants others to do it for him.

Dewey Dell is a very simple creature. She gets pregnant, and wants to have an abortion. She doesn't understand morality. Her intellect pales in comparison to Darl's; however, they have a psychic link together. Someone like this God would not judge harshly, because she does not have understanding.

Addie Bundren in the single most important character in the novel. Her chapter is a little past the center of the novel. The reason, one interpretation goes, is that Addie is like the spoke of a wheel, where the spoke is in the center, and everything is connected to it and comes out of it. She is a very hateful person. Although very poetic, she hates words, thinking them meaningless.

Sex to the Bundren family is not governed by morality (or at least they don't think it is). My teacher likened it to barnyard sex: animals are not governed by morality, and they just have sex. This is much the approach of this family, although of course they are wrong. Man is above animals, and morality governs this matter. Dewey Dell, of which much of the imagery associated with her is sexual, is very simple and knows nothing of sexual morality. Her name suggests her simpleton sexuality. Dewey Dell means "Moist Valley". Not to much of a stretch of an imagination to know what that means. She gets pregnant by Lafe. Dewey Dell is such of limited intelligence that she goes to the pharmacy at the end of the novel to get an abortion. The soda jerk tells her to come back, and then he has sex with her. She curses afterward, saying that won't cure anything. Darl and Cash masturbated while growing up. Addie is still lonely even though she has sexual relations with her husband, so goes elsewhere to find it. (Her children were there to cure her loneliness. An important lesson is lurking here: sex and children are two of the most precious gifts from God: they are exactly that - gifts. One must know Christ to have a truly fulfilled life).

Dark humour is very prevalent thruout the entire novel. Everything from Addie making her water trip to Anse getting those teeth to them dragging the body, stinking up everything, the novel is hilarious. Anse says he owes it to Addie to take her there, saying he won't disgrace her. Yet the whole journey is disgraceful. It is one of the funniest books in a dark sense that I have read in a long time. To speak to much of this would ruin some of the moments; but rest assured, if you properly imagine the events, it should strike you quite funny.

In conclusion, Faulkner has created a portrait dysfunctional family. He said he wrote this, and knew if he never picked up a pen again he would live or die (reputation wise) by this book. (Quote paraphrased) He also does his stream of conscious and multiple narrators, making this foray notable because of it. Each is fully drawn, with excellent psychological realism. The characterization is excellent. Read it.
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As I Lay Dying
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (Mass Market Paperback - 4 Jan 1996)
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