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How I lost my Literary Virginity

By Dan Fitzgerald

I was your average high school nerd, more interested in D&D than books, though I read a fair amount of fantasy and horror and the like. I did enjoy some of the classics I read at school, and I have fond memories of tackling Dickens as a freshman, along with the entire Bible (Catholic school, whaddyagonnado?). But when a friend of mine started talking about a literary book he was reading that blew his mind and was NOT for school, I got more than a little curious. And so, I checked William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying out of the library, and my world changed.

as I lay dyingI was used to reading books that told stories. Where the story was the point. Wild, I know. I sort of assumed that was the whole reason books existed. But the narrative of As I Lay Dying was almost incoherent to my teenaged brain. There are fifteen point-of-view characters—FIFTEEN! Who does that? And most importantly, why? And oh, the best chapter in the whole book? I can recite it from memory:

My mother is a fish.

Mind. Blown. It was like all my reading life I had just been making out with books, maybe a doing a little dry-humping, but suddenly this book was making love to my brain. It changed me in ways it took a long time to unravel. Everything I thought I knew about reading was a lie, and this new truth revealed an entire world that had been lurking beneath the surface.

As much as the unusual narrative structure, it was the writing that made me. Faulkner has a way of cramming countless clauses of impenetrable brilliance into sentences seemingly without beginning or end. I found myself rereading sentences and paragraphs and entire pages several times because, though I understood all the words, they were locked together in hermetic patterns, and I needed to level up as a reader to make sense of them. And that’s exactly what happened.

Though the book clocks in at a svelte two hundred ten pages, it contains multitudes. I surely read every page more than once, unlocking new doors in my mind with each nugget of genius crafted from the great word-hordes of old. I emerged on the other side of that slim volume a different person. A child had read the first page, but it was an adult who closed the back cover and leaned back with a dreamy sigh.

I know not everyone digs Faulkner. Hell, my wife absolutely hated that book. And that’s wonderful. I love the fact that this author, this book, which touched me so deeply, repulsed the person I most love in the world. That’s the power of literature right there: forming a unique relationship between a reader and a book that can never be duplicated. That, my friends, is why we read.

Check Out As I Lay Dying

Read Some of Our Other Articles in This Series

The Books That Made Us – The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Books That Made Us – Author Influences by Janny Wurts

The Books That Made Us – Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

About The Author – Dan Fitzgerald

Fantasy author of the Maer Cycle trilogy (low-magic fantasy) and the Weirdwater Confluence duology (sword-free fantasy).

I write non-epic fantasy books in which you will find:

Mystery. Darkness. Wonder. Action. Romance. Otherness examined and deconstructed. Queer and straight characters living and fighting side by side. Imaginary creatures and magic with a realistic touch.

What you won’t find in my books:

Wholesale slaughter. Sexual assault. Unquestioned sexism or discrimination. Evil races. Irredeemable villains. Predestined heroes. An ancient darkness that threatens to overspread the land.

Catch me on Twitter or Instagram as danfitzwrites.

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