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As I Lay Dying | [William Faulkner]

As I Lay Dying

At the heart of this 1930 novel is the Bundren family's bizarre journey to Jefferson to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Faulkner lets each family member, including Addie, and others along the way tell their private responses to Addie's life.
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Publisher's Summary

At the heart of this 1930 novel is the Bundren family's bizarre journey to Jefferson to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Faulkner lets each family member, including Addie, and others along the way tell their private responses to Addie's life.

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(P)2005 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"For range of effect, philosophical weight, originality of style, variety of characterization, humor, and tragic intensity, [Faulkner's works] are without equal in our time and country". (Robert Penn Warren)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (395 )
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4.1 (193 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Michelle PORTSMOUTH, OH, United States 01-06-13
    Michelle PORTSMOUTH, OH, United States 01-06-13

    Momma0f3wildcats

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    "Inside Faulkner's twisted mind."
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    Yes. If you love diving into the twisted mind of writer like Poe and Faulkner you will love this twisted tell.


    What could William Faulkner have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Spoiler alert ... I don't like that Darl was used as a scapegoat to end the story. It is as if Faulkner just got tired of the characters and abruptly ended the story with out tying up loose ends.


    What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The Narrators give a different voice to each character allowing the reader to follow the story more easily.


    Do you think As I Lay Dying needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    Yes. I would love to read what happens to Darl and Dewey Dale after mamma is buried


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    BigDan 07-23-14
    BigDan 07-23-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Awesome Classic"
    If you could sum up As I Lay Dying in three words, what would they be?

    A Must Read!
    What can you say besides "Faulkner at his best". A great novel of life and love and tragedy.
    Three words cannot do it justice


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W. Perry Hall Mobile, AL 05-05-14
    W. Perry Hall Mobile, AL 05-05-14 Member Since 2012

    S. Quire

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    "Smile, Dad"

    I grew up in Mississippi in the 1970s and 80s. I knew of people like the Bundrens.

    If you haven't read this book, the Bundrens are a family (a dad, 4 brothers and a sister) taking their mom (alive for a small part of the book) to be buried about 20 miles away in Jefferson (her wish). Problem is, the river has just flooded (timely here in lower Alabama) and the bridges are out.

    They must deal with flood (crossing a flooded river), fire, mental health and other bodily issues (to say more is to give a spoiler) on their way by wagon to bury Moma.

    It is told from the perspectives of each member of the family and friends and a hypocritical preacherman. Parts of it are hilarious and parts are downright sad. The father reminds me of why it is so hard to break free of the interrelated chains of family and poverty and, to a certain degree, ignorance.

    I give the performance 3 stars for the narrated voice of Vardaman (the character who is still a kid) and, because of his age, he views his mother's death through warped eyes (e.g., "My mother is a fish"). Probably as a coping mechanism and partly because of the trauma of losing a mom and living with a father like Anse Bundren. The narrator, on the other hand, portrayed Vardaman as an idiot.

    Warning: Do NOT watch James Franco's movie prior to reading the book. Watching the father for even part of that movie will likely disgust you to the point you cannot read further. Contrary to Franco, apparently, I never took from Faulkner's book that he intended dad to be viewed as mentally disabled.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard Toronto, Ontario, Canada 11-01-12
    Richard Toronto, Ontario, Canada 11-01-12 Member Since 2014
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    "One of Faulkner's Most Accessible Novels"
    What did you love best about As I Lay Dying?

    I liked Faulkner's compassion for characters to whom many people who read literary wouldn't give much more than the time of day. I also liked Faulkner's originality and his ability to make local matters universal.


    What other book might you compare As I Lay Dying to and why?

    I can think of a coupler of recent English novels that owe a debt to As I Lay Dying: The Hide by Barry Unsworth and Last Orders by Graham Swift, which was made into a movie with some good acting in it. Faulkner influenced Carson McCullers and numerous other Americans, including Paul Harding, who recently won a Pulitzer Prize for Tinkers. As for predecessors, how about The Spoon River Anthology.


    Have you listened to any of the narrators’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    This is the first time I've heard this team. I thought they read clearly and with expressiveness.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Parts of it made me laugh. No tears here.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tony WAKE FOREST, NC, United States 09-07-12
    Tony WAKE FOREST, NC, United States 09-07-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Narrators' Accent Struggles Distract, but Good"
    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of the narrators?

    Will Patton's Light in August narration is wonderful. Someone who can do an authentic Southern accent would have been better here.


    Any additional comments?

    The Southern accents adopted by the narrators were rather awful and quite distracting at times as the actors struggled and missed. The actor who reads Vardaman, the little boy, does catch these sections well, however, and rendered them in a very moving way.

    The novel itself is a classic of the twentieth century, and a tragicomic masterpiece.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeffrey Northbrook, IL, United States 01-16-12
    Jeffrey Northbrook, IL, United States 01-16-12
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    "A True Classic"
    Where does As I Lay Dying rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    It was near the top.


    What other book might you compare As I Lay Dying to and why?

    Tobacco Road, because they both deal with a poor rural southern family. However in this case the family seems to genuinely care about each other and are not starving.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes, I had insomnia one night and listened to the entire book


    Any additional comments?

    Faulkner is difficult for me to understand without a study guide. Following it with a study guide it was an enjoyable experience.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brooke FRANKLIN, IN, United States 10-21-11
    Brooke FRANKLIN, IN, United States 10-21-11
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    "maybe i'm just not smart enough for faulkner"

    this book single-handedly turned me off to anything written by faulkner.

    i was forced to read this for a college lit class and it was a complete struggle from start to finish. at the recommendation of a fellow student, i downloaded the audiobook in the hopes of understanding the story a bit more. on that note, the audio quality is fantastic and it really helps that each character has a different voice.

    as for the story: i get that faulkner was going for the whole stream of consciousness angle, but the characters were hard to follow, hard to get to know and hard to care about. having the prof lay out the storyline helped a bit and i can see how the plot could be interesting if the writing style had been set up differently. i was just unable to get beyond the surface of this book on my own. maybe it's too many years of fluffy chick lit or just a general apathy for the class i was taking and the professor who taught it, but if i never have to hear of faulkner again, it will be too soon.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lainnie San Marino, CA, USA 11-24-09
    Lainnie San Marino, CA, USA 11-24-09 Member Since 2008
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    "Have to listen to this twice"

    Once you've heard it the first time, you "get" it the second time. Very confusing to try to understand the relationship of the characters.

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gretchen San Francisco, CA, USA 12-03-07
    Gretchen San Francisco, CA, USA 12-03-07
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    "Ouch"

    I think the prose of Faulkner's work is beautiful and could be beautifully read by the right narrator. The narrators of this particular recording drove me crazy. I couldn't listen for more than 15 minutes at a time and have finally given up on trying to finish it. I have listened to at least 100 books and this was by far the worst narration.

    5 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tony Chiarilli Eden, NY, United States 08-18-12
    Tony Chiarilli Eden, NY, United States 08-18-12

    Retired teacher. Hometown: Eden, NY.

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    "'My mother is a fish.'"


    William Faulkner wrote his fifth novel, AS I LAY DYING, in only six weeks in 1929. It was published after very little editing in 1930. The novel tells the story of the Bundren family traveling to bury their dead mother. The novel is famous for its experimental narrative technique, which Faulkner began in his earlier book, THE SOUND AND THE FURY. Fifteen characters take turns narrating the story in streams of consciousness over the course of fifty-nine, sometimes overlapping sections.

    At the time, Faulkner’s novel contributed substantially to the growing Modernist movement. He was no doubt influenced by the work of Sigmund Freud, whose theories about the subconscious were made increasingly popular in the 1920s. Faulkner’s novel regards subconscious thought as more important than conscious action or speech; long passages of italicized text within the novel would seem to reflect these inner workings of the mind. His prolific career in writing is marked by his 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature and two Pulitzer Prizes, one in 1955 and the other in 1962.

    AS I LAY DYING is the story of the Bundren family who live in Faulkner’s fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. Addie and Anse Bundren have five children: Darl, Jewel, Cash, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman.

    The Bundren family is extremely poor, and Addie is terminally ill. Cash Bundren builds his mother’s coffin, and while Darl and Jewel are visiting a neighbor, Addie dies. The youngest son, Vardaman, is extremely distressed at his mother’s death. This trauma stems from the large fish he has just caught and cleaned, breaking it down into pieces which he no longer sees as fish. Thus he decides that his mother in death is no longer his mother, or even a person, but something that does not truly exist any longer… the fish.

    Being so upset at his mother’s death and the fact that she is now nailed in a box, he drills holes in it for her and accidentally drills her face. While the others are mourning the death of Addie, her daughter Dewey Dell is distracted by her unwanted (and unknown to others) pregnancy by a local farm hand named Lafe.

    Addie had requested she be buried in Jefferson, which is a grueling trek for the family to make, but Anse decides they must do it. The family sets off on their journey in a wagon pulled by mules, and loses or trades just about everything they own along the way.

    The story is told from the point of view of all the characters, including the post-humus Addie, and many carefully-guarded secrets are revealed. The Bundrens encounter several obstacles on their journey, including the near-loss of Addie more than once. It is mostly through the interior monologues that we gradually absorb the psychologically complex personality of each character. The inevitable conclusion is that everyone has skeletons in the closet, and will go to incredible lengths to conceal them.

    This is not a happy novel. Dark themes of identity, reality, death, poverty, suffering, religion, family, isolation, and sanity are shadowed on every page.

    There is one especially intrusive theme which demands particular mention: the major theme of the absurdity of life. The main event in the novel, the family journey to Jefferson to bury Addie, is a huge joke, reminding the reader that life is indeed absurd - nothing more, nothing less. Addie wants the family to bring her body to Jefferson, not because she truly wants to be buried there but because she wants her family to make that pointless journey as a means of revenge for forcing her to live the boring domesticated life that she has lived for so long. The entire event is a pointless journey with no meaning whatsoever. Addie intensely felt that absurdity, and thus it was her final joke to make the family do something with no rhyme or reason to prove her point.

    No discussion of William Faulkner is complete without an example of the naked beauty of the prose and poetry found within the interior thinking of his characters:

    “I believed that I had found it. I believed that the reason was the duty to the alive, to the terrible blood, the red bitter flood boiling through the land. I would think of sin as I would think of the clothes we both wore in the world’s face, of the circumspection necessary because he was he and I was I; the sin the more utter and terrible since he was the instrument ordained by God who created the sin, to sanctify that sin He had created. While I waited for him in the woods, waiting for him before he saw me, I would think of him as dressed in sin.”
    ~~ Addie Bundren, describing her adultery.

    Finally, if this review has stimulated you to visit or revisit Faulkner, but you have reservations predicated on negative comments by others, I urge you to consider AS I LAY DYING, one of his most accessible and rewarding novels. Having done my Master’s thesis on Faulkner in 1969, I daresay I have at least an average familiarity with his works. Forty-three years later that familiarity has been deepened by Audible’s four-narrator tour de force of this book. To experience the visual richness of style, consider reading a print version while you listen.

    (Incidentally, my Vintage Books edition cost $1.65 in 1969!)

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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