Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Book 2008_01: "As I Lay Dying" by William Faulkner

I tend to go the way of the Classics as my choice of literature. This particular one showed up on one of the Top 100 lists so I gave it a try.

I usually finish any book I attempt to read, even if I don't enjoy it. It becomes my Moby Dick (which took me 2 months to finish) and I keep going, it doesn't matter how many times I have to renew it at the library. However, I had forgotten Faulkner had previously beaten me. I could not finish "The Sound and the Fury" for the life of me. I will probably attempt re-reading it sometime in the future, but to this day, it is the only book I haven't finished reading.

I had forgotten this fact, when I started reading AILD in mid December '07. I had to renew the book once at the library, but I got through it. I found the same issues reading it as I had with TSATF, mainly, I had a hard time following it.

Each chapter was written in first person by a different character. Normally, this is atleast captivating (e.g. Catch-22), but this book was so slow and very sad, to say the least.

The scene that most intrigued me was when Addie (the mother of the Brunden family) was waiting for death to come to her. She had made her arrangements, wanted to be returned to her father's family land in a simple wooden box. She wanted her son Cash to build it for her, and so he did, while she was still alive. She could actually hear him build it from the barn, which was a little disturbing. Cash, however, felt it gave her a sense of ease knowing that he was building it for her.

So, the rest of the book was about the family's quest to honor their mother and bury her in the town of Jefferson, Mississippi. It definitely turned out to be an ordeal in the early 1900s. They were a poor family to begin with and a trip through Mississippi in the summer was not fun!

One of the rivers they had to cross was overflowing so they tried to wait it out a couple of days. It wasn't going down. They then tried to cross it, but lost the family mules because the river was too wild. Cash also broke his leg in the process, but didn't want to be left behind so they kept going. To ease his pain during the ride, they decided to build a makeshift cast and fill it with cement. Oh, the horror!

It must be noted that in order to keep going, his brother Jewel had to give up his horse and trade it for another team of mules. He had worked day and night to buy that horse, which had also caused the family a lot of grief since he was sleep-walking through the day as he tried to get his chores done. Although Addie didn't know what he was up to, she even tried to cover for her favorite son so his dad would lay off of him. It was therefore really tough for Jewel to give his baby up, but in the end, he did it for his mom and got a new team of mules.

As I mentioned, Jewel was Adie's favorite son and we later find out it was because he was her love child with Reverend Whitfield. The Rev. was planning on revealing this secret before her death, so that Adie would be released from her sin. He was too late. In my opinion, I'm glad he didn't get there in time. I thought the Rev. was a little selfish because this would have only helped make him feel better, but it would have cost the family so much grief and anguish.

In the end, after a longer-than-expected trip and some hungry vultures following their every move, they make it to Jefferson and lay their mom to rest.

However, when they get there, we also learn that the only daughter, Dewey Dell, is raped by a town clerk who was impersonating a pharmacist. He told her this "procedure," along with some pills, was actually the abortion she paid for with the $10 her boyfriend had given her to get it done. Need I say more.

It was a depressing book, and very hard to follow. In the end, poor Cash still had to deal with getting his leg out of the cast so that it could be amputated.

Is there anyone out there that actually likes this book? If so, tell me why so I can try to appreciate it in a new light.