I've read As I Lay Dying for a banned books challenge I wrote about here. Why has this Faulkner classic made it to the infamous banned/challenged book list? Banned-Books.com states: "In 1986, Graves County, Kentucky, the school board banned this book about a poor white family in the midst of crisis, from its high school English reading list because of 7 passages which made reference to God or abortion and used curse words such as "bastard," "goddam," and "son of a bitch." None of the board members had actually read the book."
Of course, this sounds almost absurd in 2009, but in 1932 when it was originally published, this was seen as gravely offensive. Apparently it was in 1986 as well, at least to one school.
This novel about a poor white southern family going through great lengths to bury their matriarch, Addie Bundren, was filled with so much pathos. The patriarch, Anse, wants to honor his wife's wishes to be buried in another town other than their own and get some new teeth. Their daughter, Dewey Dell, has gotten herself in "trouble" and spends much of the novel trying to find a pharmacist to help her get out of it. The four sons, Vardaman, Cash, Jewel, and Darl have a host of issues. Vardaman could be described as a simpleton and doesn't cope well with his mother's death. Cash is a bit passive and the constructor of his mother's coffin. Darl goes insane. And Jewel is the illegitimate son of Addie Bundren and a priest.
As the Classics often are hit or miss, this one was a near miss for me. I still can't quite put my finger on it. I think it's that I prefer livelier language, but that wouldn't have made sense in this novel. Hence the reason I say near miss. I do not like Faulkner's approach to dialect. Though he was a southerner, as am I, he did not seem to command white southerners dialect. And I know it varies from state to state and even from different corners of a state. On the positive, his employment of stream of consciousness was effortless. He also did well with emotional nuances which are most notable in the chapters where Dewey Dell speaks. She is actually vocal so sparsely that he relies on her subtle gestures to parlay emotion and it was effective. Overall, I think this is one of those books everyone should check out for themselves. And to stick it to those past or present who think it should be banned.