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As I Lay Dying (Norton Critical Editions) Paperback – December 4, 2009

423 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393931389 ISBN-10: 0393931382 Edition: Critical Edition

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Editorial Reviews Review

Faulkner's distinctive narrative structures--the uses of multiple points of view and the inner psychological voices of the characters--in one of its most successful incarnations here in As I Lay Dying. In the story, the members of the Bundren family must take the body of Addie, matriarch of the family, to the town where Addie wanted to be buried. Along the way, we listen to each of the members on the macabre pilgrimage, while Faulkner heaps upon them various flavors of disaster. Contains the famous chapter completing the equation about mothers and fish--you'll see. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


"A masterpiece of dark humour" Daily Express "The greatest American writers of the last century were William Faulkner and Saul Bellow...As I Lay Dying and The Adventures of Augie March: it's hard to think of two better novels written in this country in any century" -- Philip Roth Observer "One of America's greatest writers" The Times "A beautiful novel" Independent "By universal consent of critics and common readers, Faulkner is now recognised as the strongest American novelist of the century, clearly surpassing (Ernest) Hemingway and (Scott) Fitzgerald, and standing as an equal in the sequence that includes Hawthorne, Melville, Mark Twain and Henry James ... As I Lay Dying may be the most original novel ever written by an American" -- Harold Bloom --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Norton Critical Editions
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Critical Edition edition (December 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393931382
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393931389
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (423 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in 1897 in New Albany, Mississippi, William Faulkner was the son of a family proud of their prominent role in the history of the south. He grew up in Oxford, Mississippi, and left high school at fifteen to work in his grandfather's bank.

Rejected by the US military in 1915, he joined the Canadian flyers with the RAF, but was still in training when the war ended. Returning home, he studied at the University of Mississippi and visited Europe briefly in 1925.

His first poem was published in The New Republic in 1919. His first book of verse and early novels followed, but his major work began with the publication of The Sound and the Fury in 1929. As I Lay Dying (1930), Sanctuary (1931), Light in August (1932), Absalom, Absalom! (1936) and The Wild Palms (1939) are the key works of his great creative period leading up to Intruder in the Dust (1948). During the 1930s, he worked in Hollywood on film scripts, notably The Blue Lamp, co-written with Raymond Chandler.

William Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949 and the Pulitzer Prize for The Reivers just before his death in July 1962.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

364 of 384 people found the following review helpful By notaprofessional VINE VOICE on June 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
To quote the briefest chapter, the one that would surely catch your eye if you picked it off a shelf and skimmed through it: "My mother is a fish."
As with his stunning _The_Sound_and_the_Fury_ and _Absalom_Absalom_, this book makes use of the author's masterful use of stream-of-conscious writing to render an entire reality with internal monologues. The story unfolds as you construct it from the observations and responses of the characters. Though briefer and less challenging than these other two books, it's as absorbing a read as they have been for decades. When you reach the end, you can imagine that you'll pick up the book again someday, sure there's more to explore.
The structure is simple once you get the hang of it. Each chapter is the name of a particular character in the story of the family of Addie Bundren, dead in the first few pages, and being transported by her clan to the land of her birth for burial-by wagon, in the heat and dust, over rivers, for weeks, before the vacuum seal... There is no "Once upon a time." Instead, whatever that character is thinking at the instant the chapter begins is what you're reading. Soon, you know who everyone is and what she thinks of everyone else. The effect of this structure is that you can inhabit the narrative as each of the players, can see how events are interpreted differently. It's also like a mystery-someone will have troubled thoughts about something you can't quite distinguish; then, twenty pages later, you figure out what they've been talking about and you flip backward in a frenzy to see how the early references to the issue flesh out the story. This is a terribly rewarding way of reading.
This is a great first Faulkner for everyone.
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92 of 96 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
Faulkner's great accomplishment in this novel is to use the most modern fiction techniques to create a timeless allegory that we would probably not accept in a different style. His other great achievement is to leave so much space in the story for us to participate in adding meaning. You have to pay attention to even notice what is going on, and then you can provide a variety of interpretations. This novel will never be the same for any two readers. It is a stunning accomplishment, as a result.
The story begins as Addie Bundren lays dying, fanned by her daughter, while her son makes her coffin. With her husband and five children, we make her acquaintance by learning about their actions and characters. Only once does she have a role as a narrator, and then, quite late in the story.
Her husband, Anse, has promised her that he will bury her with her family. Because of tremendous rains, the river has risen, knocking out bridges and making passage difficult. Despite this, the family perserveres in taking her unembalmed body to the intended burial site. Along the way, there are many mishaps and the family is burdened in many ways by keeping this promise. As the burial comes closer, new elements of the story are exposed and develop that totally recast what you have thought was going on. On the very last page (don't read it first!) is such a plot reversal as only a short story writer would normally have dared.
The story is a difficult one to read. So read this book when you have time to pay close attention and study the text word by word. Let me explain the difficulties you will encounter. First, the voices in the book use a Southern patois that will be unfamiliar to most. This is the language of the rural poor in the 1930s, which few have heard.
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198 of 227 people found the following review helpful By Alesha N. Gates on February 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
I was re-reading this book last week, pen and highlighter in hand, when my husband walked into the living room and said, "What are you reading?" I lifted the cover. "Is it any good?" To which I replied, "No," and he responded, "Why are you reading it?" And, slightly irritated, I said, "For the same reason you are watching the American Idol Audition show. It's DEFINITELY not good, but you can't look away."

And so it is with most of Faulkner's work. As a reader, you should not go into his work expecting anything "good." You won't find an easy or clear plotline, clear language, or (and this is USUALLY a major gripe of mine) likeable characters. But even though you don't really like what you are reading, you just have to know how it ends. You have to know what makes these reprehensible people tick. And, surprisingly enough, you are usually unsatisfied in the end, but not so much that you don't want to double back and have one more look at the car-wreck that is the work of Faulkner.

And so it is with *As I Lay Dying*. It's a fascinating piece of work, masterfully crafted, ultimately depressing, and darkly funny all at once. Having been to Rowan Oak a few times, I can see Faulkner sitting in his front garden chuckling over the idea of Vardaman's infamous "My Mother is a fish," chapter and how it captivated the world with it's "brilliance."

I also have no doubt, having grown up in Mississippi, that he was writing about real people, warts and all. I'm probably related to some of them. Maybe for that reason, Faulkner reads a little differently to locals. While I certainly appreciate his literary genius, the truth and realism of what he wrote also shines through.
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