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February 15, 2006

Rohit Reviews: As I Lay Dying

In what may be deemed a rather curious coincidence, I finished up William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying yesterday morning prior to work, just in time for Valentine's Day. A disconcerting novel from start to finish, As I Lay Dying vacillates almost imperceptibly between dark comedy and even darker tragedy, and as I was reading, I was often hard-pressed to know whether to laugh or cry.

The novel is an epic tale of a dysfunctional, unsophisticated Southern family (Big surprise, right? This is Faulkner, after all.) who set out on an ill-advised journey to bury their recently deceased wife/mother in the distant town of Jefferson. Between the stubborn, miserable, and uncompromising Anse Bundren bent on fulfilling his dead wife's last wish (and as we later learn, some of his own as well), the quiet, intellectual, and introspective Darl, the hard, heroic, and aloof Jewel, and the selfless and stoic Cash, we are told a story of their mishap-prone journey through rural Mississippi in the 1920s.

Like all other Faulkner novels, this is a fairly difficult read, with the perspective anachronistically alternating between a set of characters and no established narrator to speak of (Darl is perhaps the closest substitute). Thematically, the novel is incredibly disquieting, perhaps even more so than Absalom, Absalom! and certainly more than The Sound and The Fury. Amidst the pointless acts of heroism, the failure of reason, and the prevalence of all characters the reader intrinsically deems bad, it is hard to find either hope or happiness.

Even its most gratuitous moments of hilarity, the novel is at best morbid and at worst, downright depressing. Nevertheless, it remains an excellent study of individualism and identity and I highly recommend it to those willing to put in the effort required to get through it. Still reeling over Single's Awareness Day? Pick up a copy of this novel and you'll see that the hopeless venture you call your life is not so bad after all, all things considered any how.


i think i'll have to pick this up at ye olde library.
i just picked up haruki murakami's "kafka on the shore", which just came out on paperbook.
if you haven't read a murakami, you should.

I picked up a book by Haruki Murakami, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, at a bookstore this week. It's next on my list.

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