As I Lay Dying

Mat, Tess, and Poppy returned to their home at Upper Dicker late this afternoon.

Afterwards, I finished reading William Faulkner’s ‘As I Lay Dying’. The book was first published in New York in 1930 by Jonathon Cape and Harrison Smith, Inc. My Folio Society Edition of 2011 is enhanced by William Gay’s knowledgeable and insightful introduction, and by the evocative illustrations of Katherine Hardy.

Fifteen different narrators are the device by which the author tells the tale of an eventful burial trip. They alternate with each other in presenting chapters varying in length from one line to a mere handful of pages. We enter the hearts and minds of a stubbornly independent poor rural family as the individuals relate their thoughts and observations in most credible uneducated vernacular. The protagonists, despite a certain amount of stupidity, usually retain their dignity.

Practical, sometimes wry, common sense is expressed by characters outside the bizarre-thinking family whose determined isolation does not work to their advantage. The trip has different meanings to different members of the Bundren Family who are too proud to accept help from anyone. The story is a compelling one of which I will not reveal details.

The front board bears a giant fish

caught by the youngest son.

The mother of the family appears on the frontispiece,

and other full page illustrations appear at intervals.

Despite the title, this was not an unenjoyable book to read at the holiday period.

This evening, Becky, Ian, Jackie, and I dined on the Culinary Queen’s splendid beef in red wine, creamy mashed potatoes, mashed swede, crisp carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli, followed by Christmas pudding and custard, with which I drank El Zumbido Granacha 2018 and Becky and Ian drank Wairauru Cove 2018. These delights were consumed on our knees while watching Rocketman, the marvellous biopic of Elton John played by Taron Egerton


  1. I want to go back and read it again but I gave my copy away to a friend with a “Keep it if you really need to” comment. He kept it. I love all the illustrations in your edition – except for the boy cutting wood. The saw will catch if he goes any further.

  2. OH! As I Lay Dying is my favorite Faulkner novel, and one of my all-time favorite books!! I studied it in Craft of Fiction college, reread it on my own, and taught it to high schoolers. I’ve never seen an illustrated version, though.

  3. I always tell people who want to try Faulkner to start with this one. Absalom, Absalom is good, too, and I’ll never forget the Snopes family and all those spotted horses.

  4. I recall reading that Faulkner was once asked what to do if one has re-read any of his works several times and still hasn’t understood it. “Simply read it again,”- replied the master. I have to admit that I had not understood Faulkner until I lay my hands on the originals, as the Russian translations did not do justice to his complex prose. Thank you for sharing illustrations; they are fabulous.

  5. Beautiful illustrations, and sounds like a interesting read. Unfortunately I have placed my self on a book buying freeze with the hopes of working my way through the books in our home library.

  6. This is one of my favorites among his books. I’ve never seen an illustrated edition. They’re wonderfully done, but it feels odd to me to have illustrations in a Faulkner volume. I don’t know why. I suspect it’s because of a sense (justified or not) that it would distract from his prose, or suggest interpretations before the reader is ready for them.

    Speaking of a bizarre-thinking family, have you read The Mosquito Coast, by Paul Theroux? If not, I highly recommend it. It’s a bit Lord of the Flies-ish, with a father consumed by an idΓ©e fixe, but it does have some relevance in these days of slavish devotion to people whose own grand ideas are neither rational nor workable.

      1. It’s odd — most of the time, well-done illustrations seem to complement the work, as a few words can complement a photo. With Faulkner, it just feels different. It’s a matter of taste, no doubt.

  7. This book was one we read in school. I remember it well! I remember we learned that Mr. Faulkner wrote in a short period of time and didn’t change a word of it. He was working a job during the day while he wrote this book in the late night hours. I’ll never forget learning about that. πŸ™‚
    Those illustrations are powerful and draws the reader in!
    I’ve yet to see Rocketman. I want to! I love biopics about musicians/singers/bands.
    HUGS!!! πŸ™‚

  8. I wonder if I will be able to accommodate more unread books into my wish list. You have been uncharacteristically laconic about the contents of the book other than the artwork accompanying the edition (which you reproduce exceedingly well). I reckon I must introduce myself to Mr Faulkner at some point of my journey it’s too late.

  9. This sounds like an interesting book, I’ll have to look into it.

    I hope you enjoyed Rocketman as it’s one I’m hoping to watch soon. I recently watched Bohemian Rhapsody and enjoyed that.

  10. Great post, Derrick – I love anything to do with books. I love the classics, though often their titles are so dreary… wishing you the best for 2020

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