DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Jun 25 2010

Oldies but Goodies…

by ShareReads

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it.  The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it.  The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading.  Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

As I Lay Dying coverThe classics never fail to challenge and satisfy my maturing reading habits.  I used to think teaching high school and college English classes had ruined me as a reader. I started looking at books for what they offered for class discussion and as examples of various fiction devices.  I critiqued structure and character development as well as use of setting while I read.  There were some years when I shifted to non-fiction because I could escape these distractions. But I never stopped returning to some of the classics.

Like some people I know who read Pride and Prejudice every year, I return to William Faulkner as my iconic Southern writer who captured aspects of the South, and the world universal, for those willing to bring the tolerance for ambiguity needed to read him. My favorite of his books is As I Lay Dying, which I read every few years as it is both short and layered (something I like because it reflects life as I see it). Over the years of my own life, I find reading it changes.  The book is the same, but I am different.  At least I see relationships, and understanding of duty, and the society which plants that “darn” road by our doors as different with each reading.

If you haven’t read much of Faulkner, I recommend this as a good first step. Each chapter is told from a different character’s perspective as indicated by the chapter’s heading. The story starts with the mother dying in bed where she can hear one of her sons building her casket.  After she dies, the family sets out to bury her some distance away with “her folks”.  They travel by horse and mule, pulling a wagon with her casket.  They cross rivers, stay at friend’s and stranger’s homes, make important stops in town, and return, most of them, completely changed.

Are you reading books with shifts in perspective, with dynamically changing characters, that address the end of life?  If so, please share your responses and insights.

Thanks, and remember  you can avoid the heat by reading more….

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Greg H. June 25, 2010 at 11:00 AM

My Faulkner experience was with THE SOUND AND THE FURY. I remember trying to read it in high school and finding it impenetrable. When I took it on again for a college lit class, however, I was amazed at how, this time, the book just opened up for me. TSATF was also told from the perspective of different characters in different chapter. Was this something William Faulkner did with some regularity?

Joe M. June 25, 2010 at 4:14 PM

I have to admit that my only exposure to Faulkner was during my freshman year of college, when I was obliged to read the short story “A Rose For Emily”. I liked it well enough, but not so well that I felt the urge to explore his work any further. That was years ago; maybe it’s about time I give Faulkner another try?

Laura H. June 25, 2010 at 11:39 PM

Yes, I think many of his works do shift perspectives. He uses that device in interesting ways to demonstrate to the reader the varying level of understanding and intention characters of different ages, gender and circumstance may have. Too often, perhaps, we may assume that others see and experience the world much as we do. In As I Lay Dying, it is clear to me they do not. Much of the action focuses on Jewel, but it is what Anse says that sticks with me. And every time I read about their trip, I realize anew that every family member had a different personal need and hope for the trip–beyond the ostensibly necessary burial.

Veronica W. June 27, 2010 at 1:26 PM

Although my experience with Faulkner was limited to my undergrad college days and I have not really felt the urge to revisit him, you have started me thinking about those old masters that I loved then. My romantic heart devoured Theodore Dreiser(Jennie Gerhardt), Sinclair Lewis(Dodsworth) and A.J. Cronin (Hatter’s Castle). In my opinion they were wonderful “wordsmiths.”

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