I’ve actually read this one, believe it or not. Oddly/Appropriately enough, I read it while my father was slowly succumbing to pancreatic cancer. I don’t think I picked up the book because of that, but maybe the whole ordeal had put me in the mood to really get into Faulkner.
I didn’t read it while I was in his presence. I only read it when I was in my own room, or maybe upstairs in the living room. Or when it was my Mom’s turn to drive us to far flung cities to visit specialists while he slept. I was worried that he would somehow find out that I was reading a book with such an immediate present-tense expression of death as a title. And this was for the man who had a 20-year subscription to Playboy and left them very accessible, much to his son’s happiness from ages 8-forever. And here I was worried that he might find out I was reading Faulkner. Maybe he’d give an approving nod, that frown that isn’t really a frown because it connotes understanding rather than sadness. But he never liked half of the books I read. The only book I got him into was “Still Life With Woodpecker.” He became a huge Tom Robbins fan. I ended up borrowing “Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates” from my father.
Part of me thought that maybe I should read it in front of him. I thought maybe it would say “I am so confident you will be ok that I am completely comfortable reading this, what some might say, horribly inappropriately timed choice of novel right here in front of you.” Maybe my choice of literature would say what I didn’t think I could say with a straight face.
However as I read the book [SMALLISH SPOILER ALERT], I learned that the son is actually building the mom’s coffin while his mom is still alive, and pretty much right in front of her. The horror of this scene, for all those involved, solidified my clandestine reading of this book. But I never stopped reading it. In fact, I think I continued to read it out of spite for the universe. I mean, putting the book down would be kind of surrendering to a rather baseless sentimental association that this book, published in 1930, had anything to do with my situation, with my father’s situation, given the senselessness that my closest friend was not going to be around much longer. Screw it. I was going to read this book about someone dying while I watched someone die. Take THAT Universe. Take THAT senseless void. I can be just as big of an asshole as you.
I tried to pick up “The Sound and the Fury” years later but was never able to get through it. I still own “As I Lay Dying.” I doubt I’ll ever read it again, but I also probably won’t get rid of it either. It played a rather odd role during a particular time in my life. When I look at the title, I don’t really feel any particular grief. Or happiness. I don’t even remember most of the story. But I guess it’s a part of me now.
P.S. I was tempted to refrain from imposing Faulkner’s face on this photo because, for once, this actually is a rather good pic of the person.
P.P.S. Sorry that got dark. It felt pretty good though. I did see another “Game of Thrones.” Maybe I should start a “Game of Thrones” tally.