Instead of recounting the exact details of how William Faulkner won the Nobel Prize in Literature on this day in 1949, I thought I would tell a tale of how I fell in love with the man that uniquely contributed to the modern American novel.
In high school, I was forced to read Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying in my AP English class. I, a budding seventeen-year-old girl, had no interest in reading a book written by a dead man about a family of hillbillies hiking across the countryside to bury their dead mother. I did not care that it was supposedly one of the best works of the 20th century. The American Gothic novel sounded bland and boring, and I could not believe my English teacher, who I always thought had good taste in literature, was making us read this thing. Of course, I would not be like one of my tactless classmates and read SparkNotes instead of plowing through the relatively short piece of literature, so I read it and let us say it was love at first sight.
The dark comedy was enticing, the book’s language profound, and the writing was merely poetic. I read the library bound book in a day, then proceeded to buy my own copy. I remember I put that hardback novel on my shelf like a trophy and stared at it in awe. I could not believe that Faulkner, the old cranky-looking man pictured on the back of that book, won my heart, but he did. His characters were relatable and knee-slapping funny, and I could see myself on the Bundren family’s journey to bury their mother, sitting in the wagon atop the coffin viewing the rippling countryside.
I did not revisit Faulkner until after high school. In all honesty, I was scared that I would read another one of his “so-called” masterpieces and fall out of love with the man. However, when I went off to college, Faulkner once again became a focal point in my life. I was tasked with reading Light in August and writing a report on Faulkner’s lesser-known novel for an English class. Saying I was scared was an understatement. I truly thought this book would destroy Faulkner’s prestigious image that rested in my head, but I was not disappointed. Of course, Light in August did not live up to As I Lay Dying’s glory, but it was a good book, nonetheless.
Even so, As I Lay Dying changed how I viewed classic literature. It made me appreciate the craft and how writers at the time poured their souls onto the paper. Now, I will not lie; reading classic literature is a daunting task, and Faulkner is no exception. He is the king of frivolous language and complex plot lines, but he is still a genius when it comes to the written word and making original stories for the world to enjoy. That is why I implore eager readers to give Faulkner a chance and reveal in what is As I Lay Dying. The Nobel Prize winner will not disappoint, and I ensure many will fall in love with him after reading the book just as I did all those years ago in a high school classroom.