Sunday, 30 November 2014

AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner

It's a strange oversight that I've never read this classic of twentieth century American fiction. Having read it, I now wish it was an oversight that had continued. It tells the story of the doomed attempt of one family to bury their dead mother in her family's homeland. This sample tells you everything you need to know:
In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when youar eemptied for sleep, you are not. And when are filled with sleep, you never were. I don't know what I am. I don't know if I am or not. Jewel knows he is, because he does not know that he does not know whether he is or not. He cannot empty himself for sleep because he is not what he is and what he is not.

Doesn't it just make you want to tear Faulkner limb from limb and drink his blood? Likewise the literary establishment? Or how's this, on a young girl:
Squatting, Dewey Dell's wet dress shapes for the dead eyes of the three blind men those mammalian ludicrosities which are the horizons and the valleys of the earth.

The other thing I particularly hated was the fact that everyone and everything in this story was miserable and/or mean. When people write comedy, in which no one is miserable or mean, we all know that this is fantasy; for some reason, in the opposite case, it's often considered gritty realism. I totally disagree. I am quite sure that there are funny bits in everything, even a hotel room suicide, and any novel that doesn't acknowledge that fact is poorer for it.

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