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Busy day today; two discussions starting.

If anyone out there wants to get this going, go for it. I know that synec and inimitableboz know more about this than me, so if either of you or anyone else has any discussion questions or an entry point for a discussion lets have it. Or if you just have an opinion, thought, or question, bring it on.

1FW (My mother is NOT a fish)
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"My mother is a fish."

I have often wondered and thought about this line from As I Lay Dying. It seems to be one of the strangest lines in literature. What are some ideas that suggest that Mother is a fish? Is it because she is silent like a fish? Does she run deeply into the waters of the family? Is she cold-blooded like a fish? Does she have scales on her exterior to protect her from hurts and harm? Does she lead her school of children to safe places, providing for them with food, shelter, and an attempt at love in a totally dysfunctional family? Hmmm...


interesting...I have never really explored this question below, what to me seems to be, the first layer. Vardaman catches his fish on the day his mother dies. He chops it up (the fish is dead). Not being old enought to really understand the concept of death, Vardaman somehow equates the two events. Kind of like "Jewell's mother is a horse." Oh, hell! I don't know. Where are our Faulkner experts?

1FW
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Here are some topics that I figured I would throw out to hopefully get us going. Comment on anything here or anything else about the novel or faulkner.

Jewell vs. Darl (and Addie's role in their relationship)
Vardaman and his mother and the fish
Darl as a narrator and his ability to be omniscient
Whitfield, sin, and his relationship with God
The real reason(s) for the journey

Faulkner's style in general (reactions and thoughts)
How Faulkner uses multiple perspectives to tell the story (often repeating the same events)

1FW
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Although I haven't finished the book, I find the quote "My mother is a fish" a curious reaction to grief.The fish here and the matriach were taken for granted and dutifuly fulfill a role. One left in the dust by Vardman, Chopped,evicerated,a bloody stain left on hands and clothing. The Other, waiting for an obsessed son,to finish a coffin, another to finish a job, a third to help and the youngest,tourtured that his dead mother can't breath like the fish: proceeds to drill air holes in her coffin. Pain! A fish and a mother, neither can breathe!
Does anyone else here think that Faulkner; especially in this book ,was a potent influence on Toni Morrisons "Beloved" and her curious chapter 4. They seem drawn from the same plane, of grief, posession, and carving out space in a family, riddled with a huge loss. Secrets and deceit.
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What I get from a book is the satisfaction that I understood the plot. Perhaps a shallow approach for you "deep end of the pool" folks, but that is what I am up for. In addition, I love a good description or turn of phrase. So here is what struck me in As I Lay Dying:

About Anse:
Just as I get up Cora comes to the door and says it's time to get on. Anse reaches for his shoes. "Now Mr. Bundren," Cora says, "don't you get up now." He puts his shoes on, stomping into them, like he does everything, like he is hoping all the time he really cant do it and can quit trying to.

And later, when Addie has just died:

Pa stands over the bed, dangle-armed, humped, motionless. He raises his hand to his head, scouring his hair, listening to the saw. He comes nearer and rubs his hand, palm and back, on his thigh and lays it on her face and the on the hump of quilt where her hands are. He touches the quilt as he saw Dewey Dell do, trying to smoothe it up to the chin, but disarranging it instead. He tries to smoothe it again, clumsily, his hand awkward as a claw, smoothing at the wrinkles which he made and which continue to emerge beneath his hand with perverse ubiquity, so that at last he desists, his hand falling to his side and stroking itself again, palm and back, on his thigh. The sound of the saw snores steadily into the room. Pa breathes with a quiet, rasping sound, mouthing the snuff against his gums. "God's will be done," he says.
"Now I can get them teeth."


This was a real shocker to me. In hindsight, I wonder if the real reason for insisting that they get Addie's corpse to Jefferson was so he could get his teeth? Or to find a new wife, someone he already knew? Or did he? Anyhow, I was impressed with these two passages which told a lot about Anse. I like when a writer can describe a person so well.

Another noted passage:
It turns off at right angles, the wheel-marks of last Sunday healed away now: a smooth, red scoriation curving away into the pines; a white signboard with faded lettering: New Hope Church. 3 mi. It wheels up like a motionless hand lifted above the profound desolation of the ocean; beyond it the red road lies like a spoke of which Addie Bundren is the rim. It wheels past, empty, unscarred, the white signboard turns away its fading and tranquil assertion.

I liked that phrase, fading and tranquil assertion. It reminds me of the quality a lost item has when you find it, it has that calm look to it, like it had been waiting for you all the time.

And, what this is about, opium or something?:

She looked back at the fountain again. So I though maybe her ma or somebody sent her in for some of this female dope and she was ashamed to ask for it. I knew she couldn't have a complexion like hers and use it herself, let alone not being much more than old enough to barely know what it was for. It's a shame, the way they poison themselves with it. But a man's got to stock it or go out of business in this country.

That's my take on things, glad to read your posts and get a variety of views. Anyone else have favorite passages?

Scammell
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Anyone else have favorite passages?

I do. These aren't exactly important plot points since I don't care much about plot. I read a book to identify with another person's writing style. I thought these parts (I'm only a third of the way thru so far) showed Faulkner's artistic mastery.

"'It's laying there, watching Cash whittle on that damn . . .' Jewel says. He says it harshly, savagely, but he does not say the word. like a little boy in the dark to flail his courage and suddenly aghast into silence by his own noise." (narrated by Darl)

"That's what they mean by the love that passeth understanding: that pride, that furious desire to hide that abject nakedness which we bring here with us, carry with us into operating rooms, carry stubbornly and furiously with us into the earth again." (narrated by Peabody)

"Pa leans above the bed in the twilight, his humped silhouette partaking of that owl-like quality of awry-feathered, disgruntled outrage within which lurks a wisdom too profound or too inert for even thought." (narrated by Darl)

"Dewey Dell rises, heaving to her feet. She looks down at the face. It is like a casting of fading bronze upon the pillow, the hands alone still with any semblance of life: a curled, gnarled inertness; a spent yet alert quality from which weariness, exhaustion, travail has not yet departed, as though they doubted even yet the actuality of rest, guarding with horned and penurious alertness the cessation which they know cannot last." (narrated by Darl)

"Pa looks at him, his face streaming slowly. It is as though upon a face carved by a savage caricaturist a monstrous burlesque of all bereavement flowed." (narrated by Darl)

I liked the entire Cash chapter (pages 77-8 of my book) where he lists off his thoughts and justifications in numbered format.

I might post the passages of In Our Time that I liked and more passages from Faulkner. I'll just have to see if this post was even worth the effort first.

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I'll just have to see if this post was
even worth the effort first.


I hope it was. Post more!

Scammell
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...some of this female dope

I'm not sure but I expect he is referring to arsenic here, which was a very popular "drug" among women because it gave them a lovely complexion. Taken in very small doses it doesn't kill, but it does build up in the body.

Of course, what Dewey Dell is after is a different kind of "poison" - something that will cause an abortion. I think it's one of the sadest parts of the book the way the clerk in the drug store takes advantage of her ignorance.

Sharon
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PLEASE EVERYONE if you're going to make reference to something in the plot remember to put a note at the top of the post. I'm not done reading the book yet.
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artforvic,

The drilling of the holes in the coffin really gets me. Not only the pain in the boy, but the utter confusion. He has no idea and nobody is taking the time to explain or help him.

Does anyone else here think that Faulkner; especially in this book ,was a potent influence on Toni Morrisons "Beloved" and her curious chapter 4.

Absolutely. I think Morrison is deeply indebted to Faulkner. Beloved especially seems to come right out of the Faulkner tradition. I don't remember specifically her 4th chapter, but I do remember thinking the whole way through the book that it could never have existed if Faulkner had not come before her. Not to take away anything from Morrison--I think she is wonderful. Everybody has their influences though.

That leads to an interesting question. Who are Faulkner's??

1FW

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What I get from a book is the satisfaction that I understood the plot. Perhaps a shallow approach for you "deep end of the pool" folks, but that is what I am up for.

Not at all. I wasn't able to say that until I had read it twice. For me, all Faulkner books are tough. This one actually is one of the easiest for me. I usually have to read it once just to get an idea of what the plot is. During a second reading, with my mind not so focused on figuring out what is happening, I can concentrate on other things like how Faulkner writes and the what all of this really means.

In hindsight, I wonder if the real reason for insisting that they get Addie's corpse to Jefferson was so he could get his teeth?

I think you are hitting on a major part of this book. Not only did Anse have other reasons for getting the corpse to Jefferson, but Cash, Vardaman, and Dewey-Dell had other reasons as well.

Cash wanted a stereo
Vardaman wanted a train
Dewey Dell wanted a drug to end her pregnancy

Jewel was the only one who seemed compelled get his mother there simpl to bury her. He even allowed the sale of his horse to make it happen.

That leads us to Darl--the only one who did not want to go to Jefferson. He seems to have been the only one who truly saw what was going on. He understood and wanted to end the misery of the trip.

1FW


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BL,

I liked the entire Cash chapter (pages 77-8 of my book) where he lists off his thoughts and justifications in numbered format

I loved this chapter as well. I'm sure Faulkner was laughing as he wrote it. What a wonderful way to show Cash's regimented mind. I think the last one in the list, "It makes a neater job," sums it all up for Cash. That is what it is all about for him. Doing things neatly or correctly.

I notice that most of your passages are Darl passages. I like what Faulkner does with this character. He gives him this second sight allowing him to serve as an omniscient narrator. His language is thus more grandiose. I think Faulkner is almost speaking through Darl at times--or at least it seems that way.

I like Faulkner's writing, but I tend to have an easier time with Hemingway's. At least I think I can understand why Hemingway writes the way he writes sometimes. If you have quotes from In Our Time, please post them in the In Our Time thread. I think they might lead to some discussion.

1FW
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Sharon,

Also I imagine he [Jewel] has always had a sense of being different from his siblings.

I agree; he certainly is different. I also get the sense that he does not know why he is different. What is interesting is that Darl knows and begins goading Jewel somewhat. I think the relationship between the two brothers is interesting. Before Addie dies, Darl convinces his father to send Jewel and him away in the wagon. I read somewhere that Darl knows his mother will die that night, but insists on going anyway to ensure that Jewel is not there for his Mother's death. That is some serious hatred. Where does it come from? Any thoughts???? Is it simple jealousy (why does my mother love Jewel more than the rest of us?)

1FW



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After reading this book I'm ready to re-read it. It catches me, then looses me and leaves me feeling I was in a vacuum filled with questions unanswered. So I go to the library to renew today, and take the words on for another round! I find I'm impatient reading Hemingway's IN OUR TIME. I'll save that for after I resolve some of my questions on Faulkner.
Sometimes his writing brings such clear images that ring with the reality of place; his charachters have an inept and inarticulate depth, although the writer has the depth of perception.
As for a woman reading this; I felt tourtured by these characters with their internal language, and their reaction to all their external circumstances, and yet its almost comic. (i.e. Dewey Dell to the bushes to dress, and her appearance in the store)
1FW: I looked a little for Faulkner's influences. It appears that the most known was Sherwood Anderson, although I'm not familiar with any of his work, I suspect he is as responsible for mentoring and helping form Faulkner's style, and helping him build a platform to build his literary works on. Faulkner also claims to admire and be influenced by Mark Twain, although I don't see the relationship myself... Perhaps someone might help with this.
I think Faulkner's work during this period represents a huge change in American literature, realism; born of the depression, the influences of postwar Europe and a sense of objectivity from lessons of journalism.
I'd like to read more Carson McCullers on this board too, I like that she was a woman writing in this period vein. What do you think?
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LindbergBaby, I loved what you posted, It added clarity and insite to my reading. I think it's easy to get lost reading Faulkner, his art,meaning and plot get tangled like blankets on a restless sleepers bed. I appreciate that what you point out helps me see the art and more. So although things aren't hopping here, I check to see what's said, stew on it for a few minutes or days to see if I can come up with words to express myself and what I get from the reading. Let's not let this fade yet. I hope others want to contribute more too.
BTW I was exploring the boards and saw we had an arts board, looks like it needs reviving, what do ya say? Got your stick?
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Scammell;
Many of those same images struck me also, but I want to hear your version of the "plot".
Anse: and "Finally I can get them teeth" did'nt really hit me until the end of the book, when Anse appears with "Mrs Bundren" and her music machine.
But as I've said ,I gotta re-read the book 'cause I feel I missed so much. Maybe more of my brain cells will work this time around! Vic
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I think the relationship between the two brothers is interesting. Before Addie dies, Darl convinces his father to send Jewel and him away in the wagon. I read somewhere that Darl knows his mother will die that night, but insists on going anyway to ensure that Jewel is not there for his Mother's death. That is some serious hatred. Where does it come from? Any thoughts???? Is it simple jealousy (why does my mother love Jewel more than the rest of us?)

Hi 1FW,

Well, I don't know about simple jealousy, maybe complex jealousy? :-) It might also be the differentness (sorry, that's probably not a word, but you know what I mean) of Jewel. He points out several times that Jewel is a head taller than anyone else in the family and with his uncanny insight I think he knows that Jewel doesn't completely belong.

It's an interesting conjecture that he wants to go to prevent Jewel from being there when his mother dies. This would also punish his mother, wouldn't it? However, I can't find any evidence of this in the text although it's certainly plausible enough. Can you point to any passages that suggest this? One does occur to me now that I think about it. When he tells Jewel that their mother has died he doesn't use the word mother at all, but says Jewel, I say, she is dead, Jewel. Addie Bundren is dead. It's so impersonal, maybe he is rubbing salt into Jewel's wound. I wonder what it tells us about how he feels about his mother.

Sharon
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1FW: For me, all Faulkner books are tough. This one actually is one of the easiest for me. I usually have to read it once just to get an idea of what the plot is. During a second reading, with my mind not so focused on figuring out what is happening, I can concentrate on other things like how Faulkner writes and the what all of this really means.

I had a tough time with this book on the first reading. It took quite a while before I knew who was who. When I went back I didn't read it again from beginning to end but read the chapters about the individual characters in sequence. That was a big help in understanding them.

Actually, I really like the way Faulkner structures this book, it's like putting a puzzle together, but he doesn't make it easy for the reader. Of course, if he did it wouldn't be so interesting.

Sharon
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Wow going for a second reading right away. I think you will find things that you completely missed the first time. Knowing how the plot ends really helps when reading it again. Let us know what you think.

It appears that the most known was Sherwood Anderson

Not only did Anderson help Faulkner but he also got Hemingway on his way. I'm not sure how much influence Anderson had on Faulkner's style. I have not read a lot of Anderson, but his style is generally very short and to the point. Obviously, Faulkner's is not so much. If I remember correctly, I think Anderson introduced Faulkner to some people or helped get him published. I think Anderson may have had more of a stylistic influence on Hemingway. Both writers turned their backs on Anderson. Hemingway especially...but thats another story. Anderson's Winesburg Ohio is one of my favorites.

1FW
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Can you point to any passages that suggest this?

Not really. And I don't have my copy on me right now, but I think the idea is sort of implicit. I assume that Darl knows his mother will die before he gets back. Everybody seems to know it. Darl should especially know it considering his ability to be omniscient. I can't think of any other reason why he would insist so forcefully on going. I think the quote you included supports the idea further. He definitely seems to be rubbing salt in the wounds. I think it makes sense, but you are right--there is no explicit evidence that I can see.

This would also punish his mother, wouldn't it?
Yeah, this is a good point. I like it. Maybe a way to punish them both for the "special" relationship that they have.

1FW
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When I went back I didn't read it again from beginning to end but read the chapters about the individual characters in sequence

What an interesting idea. I may have to try that.

I agree, his structure is great. I like how the same story is told multiple times by different characters. Really gives a depth to the situation seeing it from different perspectives.

1FW
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Vic: I want to hear your version of the "plot".

After taking lots of notes to keep the characters straight, and after getting halfway through it, I realized, as one does in the midst of a story, what it is all about. It is all about getting this body to the right place, and all the misfortune these poor people are suffering for their efforts. It seemed funny at times, though I am not sure it was supposed to, or if that was just my way of reacting to such trials.

I look forward to rereading it in a few months.

While away I organized all my books. Now all the novels are more or less together and in alphabetical order! What are we reading next?

scammell
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