Addie Bundren is dead (As I Lay Dying)

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as i lay dying coverI'll come right out and admit it: I'm a fan of Oprah's book club. Not only do I think it's a good idea in theory, and not only do I think it has been a help to a number of virtually unknown female authors, but I have also really liked quite a few of the books I've read (yeah, most weren't great literature, but a couple were, and most weren't crap). Anyway. A few weeks ago, I heard quite a bit of hoopla about Oprah's Summer of Faulkner. The upshot of her plan, if you don't feel like bothering with the link, is that she has picked three William Faulkner books for the club's summer month selections: As I Lay Dying for June, The Sound and the Fury for July, and Light in August for August. At first, my reaction was simply continued dismay that she is now highlighting dead white male authors who are already famous, rather than current female authors, as she was doing in the first few years. Then I considered that my exposure to Faulkner has been limited to three books, two of which were for school (Absalom, Absalom and As I Lay Dying) and one of which I tried to read on my own and got frustrated with and didn't finish (The Sound and the Fury). This fact, in combination with the fact that I have a Faulkner-obsessed Masters-in-Literature office mate, as well as my general brain atrophy, led me to decide that I was going to enroll in Oprah's Summer of Faulkner.

Other than just offering a reading list, Oprah has quite a bit of information available on her site--there is a new lecture posted every week, given by a Faulkner scholar and pertaining to the book that is currently being read. These lectures are not extremely academic, and they are not very long (about 20-30 minutes each), but so far they've been pretty good. The site also offers reading notes, Q&A, and a quiz on the book (I got 90% for As I Lay Dying!). Regardless of whether you love or hate Faulkner, it's not the easiest stuff in the world to read, especially when you aren't used to it, and these resources have definitely helped me get a lot more out of the book. As I mentioned, I'd read As I Lay Dying before, and I both liked it more and understood it better this time. Whether that should be attributed to my not being 16 anymore or to the resources I don't know, but it was a good experience either way.

So I'm looking forward to starting The Sound and the Fury, which is the one I didn't get more than a few chapters into the last time I tried it. And then I'm going to write a letter to Oprah and ask her if she wants to do James Joyce in the fall...

2 Comments

I'm a big fan of both the OBC and Faulkner, too. I think Oprah gets a lot of criticism from more literary types because some of the books thrown into the mix were very simple "Secret Life of Bees/Ya-ya Sisterhood" type stories. What I wish they would acknowledge is that Oprah put those books in there specifically for women who had, in the words of one reader, "not read a book since high school." If Oprah had picked all Faulkner, Steinbeck, and Morrison right off the bat, the book club would not have been as successful. And you know, it's a tv show. You're not obligated to read every single book and then write a book report on it. Pick and choose the ones that are up to your standards, you know? Also, I think the whole flap over The Corrections and that asshole Franzen, complaining that his work was too lofty to be demeaned by the lazy, stupid eyes of us fat midwestern housewives may have soured her on living authors just a bit.

Love, love, love Faulkner! Absolom, Absolom! is one of my all-time favorite books, as is The Sound and the Fury. More people should read Faulkner, even if he is a dead, white man. Familiarity with Faulkner has made me a better reader of Toni Morrison who is neither dead, nor white, nor male...

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