Reading As I Lay Dying was arduous task; it isn’t the most gripping plot that you will ever read, the narrative shifts from character to character, and like much of Faulkner’s work, it is stylistically tricky. Yet, it is my favourite book of all time.
For me, Addie’s section in the book is what makes it a masterpiece. As I lay Dying is the story of Addie’s death and her family’s journey to honour her wishes to be buried in Jefferson. Addie is a flawed human being, but her thoughts on words and love struck me like nothing I’ve ever read before (I have written more about my thoughts on Addie’s section here).
I decided there and then to have a quote from that passage tattooed. Almost two years after deciding that this is what I wanted, I plucked up enough courage to get it done in January, in Edinburgh. I deliberated for weeks over the placing and font, and finally decided that I’d have it below my neck and in my own handwriting.
Once I had perfected the handwriting:
I got it done:
I still need to have it ‘touched up’, but I love it. Written in my own handwriting it is unique and entirely personal, and like Addie, flawed and imperfect.
The words are hers, but these imperfections are mine.
(The photograph above was taken by a talented friend of mine. Please do not use this image without my express permission)
Faulkner said “in writing, you must kill all your darlings”. On the surface the language used in As I Lay Dying appears to subvert this dogma: it is poetic and beautifully written, but it is not merely decorative infill, it is loaded with meaning. As is the magic of Faulkner, each time I read this novel, I take new things from it and I half expect (and hope) to never fully understand it.
He has a way with words that arrests me. Stops me dead. When I first read Addie Bundren’s section in As I Lay Dying, I read it ten times more. Something just clicked and things started falling into place.
Despite the entire story revolving around her death, for the most part, Addie’s voice is absent. We seek to understand her through the actions and words of others and are granted a single insight in one small section: Addie’s.
She married for the wrong reasons, she committed adultery, she struggled to feel, she could not connect emotionally with others and so to do so, she beat the “dirty, snuffling” children that she taught as a young woman. Only through violence did she feel she could make an impression on another human being:
and I would think with each blow of the switch : Now you are aware of me! Now I am something in you secret and selfish life, who have marked your blood with my own for ever and ever (Addie)
And yet I find it difficult to feel contempt for her. Instead, she saddens me. And while she saddens me, her words inspire me Continue reading →