A classic Southern Gothic black comedy by William Faulker. It is clever and poetic, beautifully written and very complex. I love it.
I read this book for the first time in high school when we were studying the stream of consciousness style of writing. It is a style I am very comfortable with reading probably because I tend to write in that style myself. It was also the first time I was introduced to so many character point of views in a single novel and I found that I enjoyed the varying perspectives as well. Addie Bundren is the main character but we don't interact much with her because her death is the plot of the book. She lived in a loveless marriage with Anse and is the mother of five children, only one of whom she ever really doted on and loved. Darl Bundren is the child we have the most interaction with and there is constant consideration as to whether or not he is insane because he is so unlike the other characters. Is Darl crazy and the rest are sane? Alternately, is Darl sane and the rest are crazy? One of my favorite literary passages of all time comes from Darl:
"In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are emptied for sleep, you are not. And when you were filled with sleep, you never were. I dont know what I am. I dont know if I am or not. Jewel knows he is, because he does not know that he doesnt not know whether he is or not. He cannot empty himself for sleep because he is not what he is and he is what he is not. Beyond the unlamped wall I can hear the rain shaping the wagon that is ours, the load that is no longer theirs that felled and sawed it nor yet theirs that bought it and which is not ours either, lie on our wagon though it does, since only the wind and the rain shape it only to Jewel and me, that are not asleep. And since sleep is is-not and rain and wind are 'was', it is not. Yet the wagon is, because when the wagon is 'was', Addie Bundren will not be. And Jewel is , so Addie Bundren must be. And then I must be, or I could not empty myself for sleep in a strange room. And so if I am not emptied yet, I am 'is'.
How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home."
(Jewel was the child Addie adored over all of her other children and he is the product of an affair Addie had with a minister.)We analyzed that passage over and over in high school. It still speaks to me and I still love it. Cash is the oldest son and a carpenter who builds the coffin, Dewey Dell is the only daughter and pregnant with an illegitimate child, Vardaman is a young child who understands his mother's death only by comparing her to the fish he recently caught and cleaned. He speaks the only one-line chapter in the entire book.
"My mother is a fish."
The book is a conglomerate of various streams of consciousness and very complex. The interaction of the family over the death of the matriarch is sad but the family is so humorous that the story blends perfectly in to a classic black comedy story.