AS I LAY DYING BY WILLIAM FAULKNER

Billy

Guess you’d start with the fish. My mother is a fish, he said. And ever’one rolled their eyes, them’s readin’ I mean. Like, what-the-fuck, huh? Like, he’d gone and said it out of the blue. Like, there was no mention or nothing of no fish and then BAM: my mother is a fish. That kid was the one’d said it: the one’s name sounded like a German footballer. Vardaman, that’s him. Played left-back for Eintract Frankfurt in the 80’s. Probably. Anyways, he was only a kid, right? Like, the youngest of the Bundren kids. And there was a fish, an actual fish. Vardaman caught it, a big one. And cut it up. And it was this fish he thought was like his mom, I guess. Or this fish made him think of his mom as a fish. Or something. Now, I’m not sayin’ I get it, just that it ain’t no out of the blue kind of thing, him sayin’ his mom is a fish an’ all.

Mason

Addie Bundren was dyin’. She’d be the one of the title. Though the title was taken from Homer. The Odyssey, if I got it right. Anyway, she was dyin’ and her family they was sorta rallying round or something, the neighbours too I guess. Cash was even makin’ a coffin, a coffin to carry her off in, sorta speak. And that’s it for a long while, Cash makin’ that coffin and people rallying round. But there’s something in that: the dyin’ woman, her son puttin’ that coffin together outside her window. S’all kinda movin’, kinda sad and silly and funny. But guess some’s would find that boring, there not being much in the way of plot at all those first 100 pages.

Mary-Beth

Now, I can’t honestly say they wasn’t times I wasn’t bored at all. In the beginning. I mean, I can’t say I was totally engrossed when they was talkin about some cakes they’d baked. But I ain’t stupid, I got that it was necessary scene-setting, that the slow start was lettin’ you get to know them people. Anse, specially. I thought Faulkner did a smart job with him. Like, how superfluous he is almost. Like, he flitters around being no good use to anyone, while his kids and neighbours do all the practical work.

Billy

Structurally it’s neat, is all I’m sayin’. What with each short chapter given over to a different character. Sometimes the following chapter would elucidate something from the previous. They are all first person, the chapters I mean. All ‘I said, I did, I thought’ and so on. So, Cash might be tellin’ somethin’, and then Anse or Dewey or Vardaman, and not only would you get a different perspective on what was goin’ on, but the narrative would move forwards slightly, would inch forward with each new chapter. So, not only was them characters getting fleshed out, lettin’ you get to know em and theirs history a bit, but the thing was gainin’ some momentum and makin’ you want to know where’s it was goin’. I thought that was neat, is all.

Mary-Beth


Started slow, sure, but then’s they, the family I mean, starts to move Addie, tryin’ to get her to her restin’ place in Jefferson. And it gets a lot more in’erestin’ then, more excitin’ I mean. ‘Cause the bridges are down an’ all, and so getting her to her restin’ place ain’t easy. There’s more obstacles an’ all but I don’t want to ruin it. It’s fun, though. Ever seen that movie Weekend At Bernie’s? No? Phew, you’re lucky then, boy. But anyways, it’s sorta similar, ’cause in that movie these two guys they’s got this body and they get into all kinds of mishaps with it. It’s a comedy. The book’s like that.

Mason

I dint really care about the plot, but I gots to carin’ about the people, about Cash and Dewey and Darl an’ all. Those three in particular. Even Jewel, who is all strong and silent and moody and all that. ‘Cause you gets to knowin’ why a bit. But I won’t tell it, ‘cause it’s a secret. Like Dewey’s.

Jacob

At heart it’s about family, about loyalty, sure, but more so about sacrifice, an’ about how bein’ part of a family is like bein’ tied to each other by a complex series of ropes an’ strings an’ how you might not notice em most the time, those ropes an’ all, until you find them suddenly pullin’ at you, pullin’ you back or forwards. Then’s when you realise that you’re not free.

Mason

It reminds me of Salinger, Faulkner always kinda does. Least in this one and Fury, anyways. Absalom’s diff’rent, more bombastic, crazy, like one of Shakespeare’s grandest tragedies. It’s the kids, I guess. These dysfunctional, sorta lost and confused and quietly anguished, kids. Like Cash and Dewey and all. Like Quintin in Fury. Smells strong of JD.

Carter

If I was ratin’ it, I’d say it was great, sure. But i wouldn’t say it was Faulkner’s best. It’d be in the reckoning, but it ain’t as great as Fury, nor greater than Absalom [‘though some’s can’t handle all the melodrama in that’un]. ‘Course, it’s still great, just that you’ve gotta look at it in context, in terms of the others he wrote, I guess. And there’s a point in the book, not wanting to give nothing away at all, but that point in the book somethin’ goes awry somehow, like you’d put it on Fauilkner and say ‘you messed up there, Bill,’ cause it really don’t work. It’s only a small thing, in the grandest scheme a-things, sure, but it certainly don’t work and I’m not going to says it was his best cause of that. Not when he set up Darl as this mixed up kid, with some sorta depth and subtlety of character, and then he has him behaving so kinda cliched and lazy-crazy stereotype-like, like he didn’t know what to do with him. Some’s say Faullkner wrote the whole thing in six weeks and boy but ain’t that a mean feat, but, like you could say of God and the world, maybe he outta have taken another day or two and thought about it and done somethin’ diff’rent. On the whole though, you gotta say it’s great. Like, Vardaman chasing the buzzards, an’ Cash’s leg an’ Dewey in the pharmacy an’ the bridge an’ Jewell’s horse. I’ll never forget those things.

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