“As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner: a book review

After skimming the last half of “The Marriage Plot” by Eugenides and flat-out quitting “A Farewell to Arms” by Hemingway around page 88, I needed a break from the “taut and boring” (Hemingway) and the “over-written pretentiousness” (Eugenides). I thought my first taste of Faulkner would be at least interesting and something I could respect, despite the horror stories from many I went to college with and my English teacher wife. All had promised me it was a droll, confusing, aimless, under-developed mess.

I needed a good book. I haven’t finished a whole novel in weeks.

So how was my experience?

Final Word:

I get it, but I hate it. I’m not pretentious enough to lie to the scholarly-types and tell them I like it to seem smart. Just… no.

A short novel that should have taken me two days took nearly a week. I quit it twice, then walked away, and finally came back to finish it. I still skipped some horrendously confusing pages. Full disclosure: I probably read 75% of it, and that was really, really, pushing it. I checked the plot points on several site and read reviews afterwards and, yeah, despite my honest curiosity to complete the book, grasp it, and strain my ability to appriciation new things, the plot just didn’t come across clear at all. I missed a good third of what the hell was going on and who was related to who. Though I only read 3/4 of the book, there was a lot that I read twice! It took entirely too long for no good reason for certain elements of this story to come into focus. The plot description of the book on Wikipedia is clearer and carries more impact and theme than the book.

This was a rushed and unimportant diarrhea blast of story, one that only bloomed in the last 50-some pages of an already short novel. It felt like it took forever to slog through. Written in under 8 weeks in 1930, “barely altered from the first draft” according to Faulkner’s own mouth, this is one of the most renown books ever. Ever? I guess this was a brave and risky milestone for a guy who happened to do something with formatting and style that had never been done.

Okay. He pioneered it. Great. Still bad.

I might, MIGHT, dabble in “The Sound and The Fury” from some morbid curiosity — the novel I’ve been told was the “true” masterpiece. “As I Lay Dying” was simply his most “accessible.” (What?!)

Both are difficult reads. Don’t tell me they aren’t. It would be okay if the content was remarkable or awe-inspiring. Maybe for the time, but a lot has been written in 80 years, buddy.

My two cents: 2/5

MH

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Filed under Book Reviews, Thoughts on Writing

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