As I Lay Dying
by William Faulkner
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
At times this book is funny, other times it’s just plain sick, still other times it’s sad, and often it’s a combination of all three. Just think about Vardaman confusing his mother for a fish in the shortest section of the entire novel: "My mother is a fish." Humorous in its brevity, poignant in its rendering of a child’s thought-process, and of course incredibly sad. When Addie’s coffin ends up in the river, we can’t help but smirk – morbidly, of course – at the thought of Vardaman’s interpretation.