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How “As I Lay Dying” Made Me Fall in Love With William Faulkner

Instead of recounting the exact details of how William Faulkner won the Nobel Prize in Literature on this day in 1949, I thought I would tell a tale of how I fell in love with the man that uniquely contributed to the modern American novel.

 

In high school, I was forced to read Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying in my AP English class. I, a budding seventeen-year-old girl, had no interest in reading a book written by a dead man about a family of hillbillies hiking across the countryside to bury their dead mother. I did not care that it was supposedly one of the best works of the 20th century. The American Gothic novel sounded bland and boring, and I could not believe my English teacher, who I always thought had good taste in literature, was making us read this thing. Of course, I would not be like one of my tactless classmates and read SparkNotes instead of plowing through the relatively short piece of literature, so I read it and let us say it was love at first sight.

 

The dark comedy was enticing, the book’s language profound, and the writing was merely poetic. I read the library bound book in a day, then proceeded to buy my own copy. I remember I put that hardback novel on my shelf like a trophy and stared at it in awe. I could not believe that Faulkner, the old cranky-looking man pictured on the back of that book, won my heart, but he did. His characters were relatable and knee-slapping funny, and I could see myself on the Bundren family’s journey to bury their mother, sitting in the wagon atop the coffin viewing the rippling countryside.

 

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I did not revisit Faulkner until after high school. In all honesty, I was scared that I would read another one of his “so-called” masterpieces and fall out of love with the man. However, when I went off to college, Faulkner once again became a focal point in my life. I was tasked with reading Light in August and writing a report on Faulkner’s lesser-known novel for an English class. Saying I was scared was an understatement. I truly thought this book would destroy Faulkner’s prestigious image that rested in my head, but I was not disappointed. Of course, Light in August did not live up to As I Lay Dying’s glory, but it was a good book, nonetheless.

 

Even so, As I Lay Dying changed how I viewed classic literature. It made me appreciate the craft and how writers at the time poured their souls onto the paper. Now, I will not lie; reading classic literature is a daunting task, and Faulkner is no exception. He is the king of frivolous language and complex plot lines, but he is still a genius when it comes to the written word and making original stories for the world to enjoy. That is why I implore eager readers to give Faulkner a chance and reveal in what is As I Lay Dying. The Nobel Prize winner will not disappoint, and I ensure many will fall in love with him after reading the book just as I did all those years ago in a high school classroom.