This month's book is As I Lay Dying. I read it almost in one sitting. It was compelling. Compelling like watching a train wreck.
His style is not difficult to read. In fact, he writes beautifully. Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre--now that was some difficult reading.
Architect Louis Henri Sullivan said, "Form ever follows function." This doesn't mean that function is more important than form, but as Frank Lloyd Wright said (although he didn't practice it), "form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union." Applying that to As I Lay Dying, the form (writing) is beautiful but the function (plot and characters) is repulsive.
When I finished the book, I was desolate. I don't need happy endings in a book, but I do need a sense of hope.
The woman (PhD in English) who is leading the discussion of this book has asked me twice about the humor in the book. I just didn't see any humor as I read the book nor as I think about it. She suggested that setting Cash's leg in cement was both tragic and humorous. I thought it was only tragic. It was stupid and harmful. This is a crippled family and all of Faulkner's beautiful words did not change that underlying sense of hopelessness I felt. And I can't think of anything I "learned" because of reading this book. I already know that there are crippled people in this world; I am not tempted to set legs in concrete; I know to bury a dead body before the vultures track it; you don't cross a raging flooded river; a father doesn't steal (horses and money) from his children; you don't beat children so you can feel; and a promise to a dying loved one should be tempered by the reality of those who live.
About the only "example of language that you think is particularly poignant, or beautiful, or philosophically perspicacious," as we've been asked to note, is Cash's thoughts about Darl:
"Sometimes I aint so sho who's got ere a right to say when a man is crazy and when he aint. Sometimes I think it aint none of us pure crazy and aint none of us pure sane until the balance of us talks him that-a-way. It's like it ain't so much what a fellow does, but it's the way the majority of folks is looking at him when he does it."Oh, and Darl's drinking stars out of the gourd at night created an especially beautiful word picture.
So am I missing the boat on this book? Should I try another Faulkner book? Are all his books desolate and repulsive?
UPDATE: Here is review of the book. I'm not sure I agree with the reasoning, although it gives me some things to ponder, such as the implied relativism of the form of the narrative. However, perhaps the conclusion, that it is not only bad but evil, would explain my sense of desolation after I finished the story.