Tag Archives: As I Lay Dying

Robert Flynn Author Novelist Teacher

Bob’s Story:
 I was born at home in a house surrounded by cotton fields.  A few miles to the east and we would would have been in an oil field.  A few miles west and we would have been on land good for nothing but running cows and chasing jackrabbits.  My grandfather had been tricked into buying the only place in twenty miles that would grow cotton.
 
It was in the cotton field that I first learned the power of the English language.  Those who chopped cotton with a hoe were not called hoers.  As my mother explained to me with a switch.  It occurred to me that if the wrong word like hoer had the power to move my mother to such action, just think what using the right word like hoe hand could accomplish.
 
That was when I first got the notion of being a writer.  I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.  We didn’t go in much for writing at the country school I attended.  We studied penmanship.  But we knew what a writer was.  A writer was somebody who was dead.  And if he was any good he had been dead a long time. If he was real good, people killed him. They killed him with hemlock. Hemlock was the Greek word for Freshman Composition.
 
The country school I attended was closed, and we were bused to Chillicothe. Chillicothe, Texas is small. Chillicothe is so small there’s only one Baptist Church. Chillicothe is so small you have to go to Quanah to have a coincidence.  For a good coincidence, you have to go to Vernon.  Chillicothe was fairly bursting with truth and beauty, and my teacher encouraged me to write something that had an epiphany.  For an epiphany, you had to go all the way to Wichita Falls.
 
Real writers wrote about such things as I had never heard of.Damsels.  Splendor falling on castle walls.  For splendor, we had to go to the Fort Worth Fat Stock Show. Since I wasn’t overly familiar with damsels and  splendor, I tried reading what real writers wrote about rural life.  “Dear child of nature, let them rail.  There is a nest in a green vale.”  Which was pretty mystifying to me.  Didn’t writers get chiggers like everybody else?
 
It looked like for truth and beauty you had to cross Red River.  All I knew about was a little place called Chillicothe.  And it wasn’t even the Chillicothe that was on the map.  Truth in that mythical place was neither comic nor tragic, neither big nor eternal.  And it was revealed through the lives of common folk who belched and fornicated, and knew moments of courage, and saw beauty in their meager lives.  But I could not write about the people I knew without using the vocabulary they knew.  My father did not believe a cowboy said “golly bum” when a horse ran him through a bob wire fence.
 
Words are not casual things.  They are powerful.  Even explosive.  Words can start wars, or families.  Words can wound, they can shock and offend.  Words can also heal, and explain, and give hope and understanding.  Words have an intrinsic worth, and there is pride and delight in using the right word.  Anyone who chops cotton with an axe is a hoer.
(From “Truth and Beauty”)
 
THE REST OF THE STORY
In New Testament times, paper was expensive and writing laborious.  It is for that reason that some stories in the Gospels seem truncated.  Today you can learn The Rest of the Story:
 
The Good Deed, John 9:
 
Jesus spat on the ground and made some mud with the spittle; he rubbed the mud on the man’s eyes, and told him, “Go wash your face in the pool of Siloam.  So the man went, washed his face, and came back seeing.  His neighbors then, and the people who had seen him begging before this, asked, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?”
The rest of the story:
 
The following day, the man came to Jesus again, and said, “You have ruined my life.  I can’t read or write.  I don’t recognize numbers.  I have no skills.  And now my neighbors know I’m not blind.  How can I beg?  Are you going to let me starve?”  And Jesus spat on the ground again.

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Intensity from page to stage

Intensity from page to stage

‘As I Lay Dying,’ rich with inner voices, an unblinking look at the human animal

'As I Lay Dying'
Dylan Page and Matt Bowdren in Rogue Theatre’s production of “As I Lay Dying.” 

 

 The company opens Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying,” a novel steeped in Mississippi mud, dysfunctional characters and words so lush and writing so magical that it, along with his other works, won Faulkner a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949.

“One of the things I really really like about this novel is that Faulkner looks very unflinchingly at us – or makes us look at ourselves unflinchingly,” said Joseph McGrath, co-founder of Rogue and the director of this production.

“We may have all sorts of higher thoughts, but we are physical beings, and we are never really allowed to forget that. It’s an unflinching look at what it is to be human not just in an emotional, but physical sense.”

Faulkner wrote “As I Lay Dying” in 1930. Since then it has been consistently cited as one of the great American novels of the 20th century.

And the play, adapted by Annette Martin, doesn’t fool around with the master’s text.

“We aren’t doing the entire novel,” said McGrath.

“The adaptation cuts a lot out. But there isn’t a word that’s not Faulkner’s. We’ve pulled everything from the book.”

“As I Lay Dying” chronicles the journey of the dirt-poor Bundren family members as they attempt to bring the wife and mother, Addie, to her requested burial site.

It is character-rich, and each of them delivers monologues, revealing inner thoughts, turmoils and troubles.

“They are all narrators, but not all the narrators are reliable,” said McGrath.

“So what you’re doing is piecing together what is happening and what is true and reliable. The effect is one of isolation, where every person is in his own world.”

McGrath is compelled by the family in this story, and the nature of family that Faulkner addresses in “As I Lay Dying.”

“This family is so inept without its mother,” he said.

“We join them as they are in the death watch, and already the family is beginning to disintegrate. Their journey, without that figure of Addie that would help them make decisions along their way, is pretty inept and comic. I hope to bring out the comedy. In a way, it’s deeply disturbing and very close to farce.”

And as for those who fear Faulkner, this may be your chance to embrace the author.

Of all of his works, this is the “shallow end,” said McGrath.

“This is the easy way to get into Faulkner.”

• Presented by: The Rogue Theatre.

• Adapted by Annette Martin

• Where: 300 E. University Blvd. in the Historic Y.

The story

Addie Bundren is dying, watching as her son Cash builds her coffin. She has one wish: to be buried in a town 40 miles away.

It’s a difficult request to fulfill, but the family tries. Addie’s body in hand, they take nine days and deal with flood, fire and buzzards in their quest to bring Addie to her final resting place in her hometown of Jefferson, Miss.

While committed to granting their mother’s desire, the characters, through a series of monologues, reveal some desires of their own that they think can be fulfilled in Jefferson.

ANOTHER ADAPTATION OF ‘”AS I Lay Dying” was written by Robert Flynn. called “Journey to Jefferson” and was first directed by PAUL BAKER at the Dallas Theater Center.  Robert Flynn’s adaptation was later widely produced and won international awards.

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