Monday, 29 June 2009

All In The Family

Finished As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.

This novel has been called Faulkner's masterpiece - the introduction of the "stream of consciousness" novel; the start of Southern Gothic, if you will.

I enjoyed this novel, but couldn't put out of my head something I had read years earlier in The Onion (a satirical newspaper) - a spoof advice column entitled "Ask A Faulknerian Idiot Man-Child". The dialogue spoken by the "idiot man-child" very cleverly mirrors the style of speech Faulkner uses for most of his characters.

Once I got past this (for the most part), I found As I Lay Dying to be moving, tragic, poetic. What seems to be a simple gesture to honor a family member's dying request is revealed through the many narrators (including the dying woman herself) to be a smaller part of a complex and tangled family web.

Nobody is perfect in the Bundren family - actually, far from it - but sympathies still run high even after secrets are revealed - infidelity, pregnancy, betrayal, even faking an illness. These characters' weaknesses only make them more human; more palpable; more real.

Faulkner's words bring the settings as well as the characters to life - one can feel the heat, smell the sweat, hear the rain. Stark beauty.

Up next: The 39 Steps by John Buchan.

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