Thumbs up for As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. Literature.
The title must be ironic, because most of this book is, in fact, about the delivery to its final resting place of the coffin containing one Addie Bundren (thoroughly deceased as of page 49). The players here, each narrating their own point of view, are the remains of her family – most of whom are mentally handicapped and/or plum crazy. This might be unbearable except for the fact that the sane people they meet react to them the same way you or I would, so you know as you’re reading that you’re not meant to take the Bundrens seriously. As I Lay Dying has the honor of being the only book which has ever made me take recourse to SparkNotes to track what’s going on. (Faulkner has a problem with pronouns: as in, which “he” does that “he” refer to?) Perhaps that’s something he would have fixed had he done any editing. But he claimed he never changed a word from his first draft, and, well, having read the result, I believe him. In spite of that, I liked the book much more than I thought I would, and I look forward to someday reading a work of his that has been edited. Someday…but maybe not too soon.
When Anse finally sent for me of his own accord, I said “He has wore her out at last.” And I said a damn good thing, and at first I would not go because there might be something I could do and I would have to haul her back, by God. I thought maybe they have the same sort of fool ethics in heaven they have in the Medical College and that it was maybe Vernon Tull sending for me again, getting me there in the nick of time, as Vernon always does things, getting the most for Anse’s money like he does for his own. But when it got far enough into the day for me to read weather sign I knew it couldn’t have been anybody but Anse that sent. I knew that nobody but a luckless man could ever need a doctor in the face of a cyclone. And I knew that if it had finally occurred to Anse himself that he needed one, it was already too late.
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