As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

I had never read it.  Time to read it.  Time to check it off
the giant list of  “College Bound Reading List” by the Arrowhead
Library System in Rock County, Wisconsin.

The South.  The Bundren family are determined to carry the
coffin of their mother, Addie, to Jefferson to be buried among
her own folk.

The father, Anse, and the five children set off on a wagon pulled
by mules–in the rain–long drenching rains –and find that the
bridges are out.  Detours are necessary and even those don’t
work out.  The wagon tips over at one point, the coffin at the
bottom of the river . . .

They are not really children any more, though Vardaman is still
young.  They are Cash,  Darl,  Jewel,  Dewey Dell and
Vardaman.   Vardaman is strongly affected by the death of his
mother and has come to believe that his mother is a fish.

Jewel is a proud young man, maybe with a different father, and
has the sin of pride in the ownership of a fine horse (purchased
from the Snopes family—–ah!  a name in other Faulkner writings.)

Dewey Dell is seventeen and is harboring the secret that she is
with child, but without a wedding ring.  Cash is the strong silent
type and is the carpenter who carefully builds the coffin for his
mother—even as she waits to die and listens to his plane beveling
the surface.

They set off to bury Addie Bundren in her beloved–or at least
requested burial place.  If it weren’t for bad luck, they’d have no
luck at all.  That poor coffin goes through heaven and hell—mostly
hell to get to Jefferson.  The family stops at several overnight places
and the smell of the delayed burial causes problems at the towns
they pass through.  Buzzards are following them.

The reader recoils at some of the images.  And then can’t decide
whether to laugh or cry.

The story is told generally in very, very short chapters by the
different characters in the story.  The cryptic southern dialect
becomes ingrained  and  tension mounts as we come to grips
with the starkness and sadness of the story.

I don’t like Faulkner—that’s what people usually say.  Well, I
don’t like Faulkner either, but I liked this book.

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