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93 of 102 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 Sept. 2004 by Donald Mitchell

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3.0 out of 5 stars Important Work In Literary History
When it was first published in 1930, As I Lay Dying formed part of the modernist movement in writing. Its focus on psychological realism, its stream of consciousness prose and its multiple first person narrative, account for it being a seminal work. As a consequence Faulkner carved a place for himself as a literary great.

The plot is a quest. The Bundren family...
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93 of 102 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pilgrim's Progress to the Promised Land, 5 Sept. 2004
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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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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4 of 4 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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35 of 39 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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40 of 45 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You live on your feet but..., 13 Nov. 2014
By 
Mr. G. Morgan "wes" (Haywards Heath, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: As I Lay Dying (Mass Market Paperback)
Had to study it, didn't spoil my enjoyment of this astonishing achievement. A last journey as the family takes dead old Addie back to Jefferson in this breath of the south. We see this saga through the eyes of each character. Of course it is impossible to avoids seeing the journey as an allegory of Life, but it doesn't matter. What does is the pathos Faulkner extracts from the family's tribulations. And there is the striking image of Man upright to consider. It is worth the considerable powers of concentration it requires and is undoubtedly his masterpiece; a tour de force as weird ventriloquism and inventive symbolism. Above all, a compelling, important read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Important Work In Literary History, 9 Sept. 2014
This review is from: As I Lay Dying (Mass Market Paperback)
When it was first published in 1930, As I Lay Dying formed part of the modernist movement in writing. Its focus on psychological realism, its stream of consciousness prose and its multiple first person narrative, account for it being a seminal work. As a consequence Faulkner carved a place for himself as a literary great.

The plot is a quest. The Bundren family want to respect the wishes of the matriarch of the family, Addie, by burying her in Jefferson, a town some distance away. To do so they have to overcome numerous obstacles. The family is deeply flawed and the story moves slowly through these challenges, descending at points into farce.

By today’s standards, the book is a testing read. The multiple voices are indistinct, all written in dialect with few distinguishing elements, making it hard to identify who is who. In the first half of the book the pace is slow to the point where it is hard to identify any forward momentum. In the latter half the pace picks up, but only at the expense of credibility. Although the characterisation is well established as poor, naïve and lazy, it is hard to believe that this family, that has managed to survive as dirt farmers in Mississippi, don’t have more common sense or resourcefulness. The fact that this is a poor white family, without the additional challenge of racism to contend with, further undermines its credibility.

As part of the development of fiction writing, As I Lay Dying, has an important place in literary history, and was considered a courageous piece of writing at the time. However, for a modern reader its merits may not seem that obvious.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic, 9 Nov. 2011
This review is from: As I Lay Dying (Mass Market Paperback)
I bought this book on recommendation in the "Vintage Faulkner" edition. In reality, it deserves to be rated as a "classic" and one not to be missed by the avid reader.

As Professor Donald Mitchell states in his excellent review of this book, this book will present a different reading experience for each individual reader. For me it presented an insight into the nature of humanity, our passage through life to the inevitable end which is awaiting us all.

I loved Faulkner's insights into the role of women in the lives of men ("A man can't tell nothing about them. I lived with the same one fifteen years and I be durn if I can.") I also loved his thoughts on death ("I could just remember how my father used to say that the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time."), and human nature: ("...all people are cowards and naturally prefer any kind of treachery because it has a bland outside.") When it is all put together, southern vernacular or no, what you have presented to the reader is a deep understanding of the essential nature of humanity passed in a comical but pertinent manner.

I think, however, what I loved the most about this book is the tiny section when Addie Bundren is given a voice and it is revealed to the reader that the reason for exacting the promise which will cost her family so much (Cash's broken leg and a future of permanent disability, Jewel's burns and the loss of his horse, the loss of Darl's mind and freedom) comes down to petty revenge upon Anse and the life he has given her.

Don't let the vernacular of the Deep South put you off by the way - it is not the challenge some readers have found - just let yourself sink into it and become immersed in the language. It's part of the reading experience and after a while you don't even notice it's there.

This is one book to snap up for your library - your bookshelves are naked without it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars God Rest Her Soul!, 8 Jan. 2015
By 
Thespionic "Thespionic" (West Country) - See all my reviews
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I just love the `mystique `of the old Deep South,It is something that I've always been drawn to - I can't really tell you why, but I've so enjoyed the likes of: Mockingbird, Huckleberry & Uncle Tom.
This read so reminded me of Caldwell's `Tobacco Road' & God's Little Acre?
It's not so sexually suggestive of course, though there's still clearly a bit of `hanky- panky' going on here with Addie, Dewey and Anse right at the end.
The humour is totally `honest' and very similar in style, and so is the `hopelessness' of the participants! Those country folk sure do have a very simplistic way of looking at things?
I smiled an awful lot through this read, and how many of us said to ourselves - "please don't go over that flooded river!"
I do agree with those that say it's not the easiest, or certainly the most fluent of books to read? The dialect can hold you back at times and it's surprisingly easy to miss some of the salient points if you try and rush through it! Saying that, the book ( hardback) is only 230 pages, each page is not overly filled, so, you can read this in a couple of days quite easily.
There are several paragraphs where it's frankly just babble - just accept it as part of the intellect of the players and writers imagination and move on?
The story is pretty simple, but there are a few surprises along the way, I found the ending very ironic?
Without a doubt a first class read, and like a lot of `Southern' reads - very unusual!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Darkness on the edge of Town!, 8 April 2012
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This review is from: As I Lay Dying (Mass Market Paperback)
This is a classic of American Literature, a novel that I wouldn't have read had it not been chosen by our book club. I'm glad I read it, but it is a challenging read - written in the "stream of consciousness" technique so beloved of the Modernists, but featuring the archetypal American story of a (not so epic) journey and a dysfunctional impoverished family, set in the deep South.
If you've read Cold Comfort Farm, you might find this novel hard to swallow without experiencing flashes of an (unintentional?) humour. Characters have monosyllabic names like Darl, Cash, Cora and Tull, and the plot centres around the death of the grim, long-suffering mother of the family and her deeply unnattractive husband, Anse. Did the author intend the book to have a blackly comic tinge to it? The self-effacing sufferings of Cash, as the family treat his twice-broken leg by coating it in concrete to help support it, is but one example. Legs that go green and rotting corpses - this book has interesting episodes!
I didn't find Faulkner's prose style totally successful - a bit too pretentious for my liking. However, I think it is a book everyone should try and read for the insight it gives into the American psyche. All those strange stories and characters that appear in the songs of Dylan, The Band and the american western movie now make more sense...
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5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant and inventive novel, 14 Mar. 2010
This review is from: As I Lay Dying (Mass Market Paperback)
At first I wasn't sure about this book, with its multiple voices and rough southern vernacular, but I soon grew to appreciate the incredible vitality of it, the immediacy of the language. Although it can be a little hard to understand, the colloquial speech really works in this case. My biggest criticism is that, in the Vintage Classics edition I read, there appear to be mistakes in the text that I don't think are deliberate. Why, for example, does Lafe (a name) suddenly become Life? Surely this is just a typographical error, something that shouldn't happen in a book that's been around so long. There are others too, though it's sometimes impossible to tell if they are intentional or not, such is the deliberate coarseness of these semi-educated farming folk, who say 'holp' instead of help, 'kilt' instead of killed, and so on.
Another criticism might be that, semi-literate though they are supposed to be, several of the fifteen voices that narrate the story are capable of sudden bursts of really quite moving, poetic language. But this is a minor point and a license that is permitted in literature anyway. The trick is to get the balance right and be believable, and Faulkner undoubtedly achieves this. Some of the action sequences are stunningly written. Definitely worth reading.
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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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