Why Read Faulkner?

The El Toro Book Club recently discussed William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Due to the subject matter and the challenging style in which it is written, I was expecting a low turnout and negative comments. Much to my surprise, many people showed up for the discussion, and the overwhelming consensus was yes it is a challenging read, but so worth the effort.

The book is written in a stream-of-consciousness style with multiple narrators, each one providing a unique monologue of the events as they unfold. Addie Bundren, the matriarch of a Southern family in the 1920’s, is deathly ill. Her husband, Anse, is determined to honor Addie’s wish of being buried in her home town of Jefferson, resulting in the Bundren family embarking on a journey of misfortune. Events unfold that are at times comic, at times tragic, and occasionally grotesque (imagine the smell of a corpse after 10 days in the hot Mississippi sun).

A good portion of our discussion revolved around the Bundren clan, and there was much to ponder. Was Daryl really insane? Why didn’t Dewey Dell want to get married? Why did Vardaman think his mom was a fish? One Book Club member aptly described the characters as “people right out of a Coen Brothers movie.”

Need another reason to read Faulkner? Hollywood insiders report that James Franco (from the movie 127 Hours) plans to direct his version of As I Lay Dying this summer.

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