Sunday, July 12, 2009

Five best books about arduous journeys

Rose Tremain’s novels include ­Music and Silence and The ­Colour. Her most recent work, The Road Home, has just been released in paperback.

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of novels about arduous journeys.

Number One on the list:
As I Lay Dying
By William Faulkner
Jonathan Cape, 1930

The Bundren family, poor white farmers in Mississippi, attempts to keep a pledge to its dead matriarch, Addie, to bury her with her kin a hundred miles away. The coffin is put aboard a mule-drawn wagon, and the Bundrens climb in and set off—just as a storm sweeps in, drenching the travelers and raising the river levels. Every jolt and tip of the cart is felt by the reader in this anguished under­taking, but William Faulkner is charting far more than a hazardous journey. At its core, “As I Lay Dying” is a powerful story of ­domestic entropy, a tale ­perfectly served by its elliptical, multi-voiced narration, in which nobody is ­listening to anybody else. As Addie’s body ­begins to putrefy and buzzards start to circle under the leaden sky, as the wagon is almost lost in the swollen Mississippi, so the secrets and lies of the Bundrens are washed up on some lonely and silent shore, where, still, no individual cry can be heard.
Read about another book on Tremain's list.

As I Lay Dying also appears on Roy Blount Jr.'s five best list of books of Southern humor.

Also see Sebastian Beaumont's top 10 list of books about psychological journeys and Hugh Thomson's top ten books about South American journeys.

--Marshal Zeringue