Submitted by Christopher Korbel ’88
On a warm August afternoon, surfing Facebook, I received a post from Brad Gottschalk ’87:
“Fellow Lawrentians: I just finished re-reading As I Lay Dying. (And at my suggestion, so did my wife Erica Neuendorf-Gottschalk ’87). This was one of the first works of literary fiction I ever read in my life, and when I read it the summer before my freshman year, I liked it a great deal but found it utterly bewildering. This time around, I found it much more accessible. Does it hold up? Hell, yes! This is a great book.”
Lawrentians quickly replied. Corrie Campbell ’87: “Now you’re going to make us all reread it.”
Michelle Lehman ’87: “Yup. You’ve just challenged us all.”
I offered to reread it … once Khun’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is adapted into film.
With apologies to these alumni, I believe As I Lay Dying represents for many of us a frustrating Lawrence experience. The story is challenging to decipher even under the best of circumstances, much less the first weeks of college.
Yet these schoolmates—unfazed by sarcasm—successfully persuaded me to dive in. Realizing that if it took only four peers to motivate me to literally rewrite a past failure, how powerful a support network would we have if we formed a Facebook group?
On Facebook, not only can one connect with friends, one can create or join topic-related groups/pages. On a “page,” only the site administrator posts information and members just reply; in a “group” members can do almost everything.
I sent out invitations to all my LU friends with the request that they do the same. Soon there were 91 members.
Other interesting facts about the Facebook group:
- Classes represented span the early 1980s to the early 1990s.
- Participants range from Phi Beta Kappas to non-graduates, and from instructors and authors to homemakers and geologists, among other professions.
- Members reside in Europe, Asia and North America.
- Almost nobody had re-read this book or any others by Faulkner in the last 21 years.
- We voted on a format, created our own curriculum, including bi-weekly reading dates, member-submitted questions, character profiles and real time discussions. We utilized almost no academic sources, especially avoiding involvement from Lawrence (while former president Rik Warch later joined, he only observed).
- To my knowledge an As I Lay Dying online forum has never been attempted by Facebook, Lawrence, another university or any other Faulkner enthusiasts.
- Old friendships were renewed and new friendships were made.
Over four months, the group strove to make sense of the novel’s complexities, and inadvertently wound up gaining insight into the lifelong odyssey of learning we have all been traveling since we first picked up the book many Augusts ago. Our journey parallels the Bundren’s mission to bury Addie. Both in the novel and the group each member deals with the story from his or her own subjective filter, the difference being that in our community we can reach a satisfactory conclusion only by sharing our views and affirming each other’s opinions.
Jay Bullard ’87: “I am enjoying this much more than I did the first time. ”
Karen Gundersen ’87: “Me too!”
Diane Pellowe ’87: “Anybody interested in reading anything else as a group?”
Interested in finding out more? Join us on Facebook As I Lay Dying Two: This Time It’s Personal
Christopher Korbel is a writer in Los Angeles and co-owner of make-a-toast.com.