“My mother is a fish”

As I Lay Dying is one of those insane novels that is absolutely essential for anyone who was wondering why William Faulkner is  still the man. Vardaman’s exclamation “My mother is a fish” is traced so deeply into the hard drive of my imagination that it was wild to see Julie Ruane’s post about names in As I lay Dying that includes some pretty wild images that infuse that preposition with some crazy graphics:

I love when someone takes something near and dear to you like a quote from Faulkner and further accentuates it’s insanity.

Julie is posting as one of a number of students for Mara Scanlon’s Freshman Seminar on Ethics in Literature, and given the number of posts (106) and comments (256), let there be no question that Scanlon is quickly becoming the diva of blogging at UMW. She has been amazing in having her student reflect and share openly about their readings, as well as sharing relevant resources like Julie demonstrates beautifully.

On a Faulkner-related note, I was recently asked to talk about Absalom, absalom! (the greatest American novel ever written) to a book club at a restored African American School in Winchester, VA., which I believe was a Julius Rosenfeld funded school. This is kind of wild for me, because I make no claims to be anything more than a Faulkner fanboy, I am not entrenched in the Faulkner scholarship, which is immense, but rather believe Faulkner and I share one very basic thing—a strong belief in nostalgia as the only way forward. Regardless, despite my attempt to tell them I am probably not the best person for the job, I am still being courted and it looks like in may actually happen sometime in April or May—though I hold out the real possibility that they will come to their senses before then.

But to be honest, I am thrilled at the opportunity to read Absalom, absalom! a couple of times before then and try to frame some kind of vision of why the hell an instructional technologist is talking to a group of folks about Faulkner in a restored African American school. Regardless of the absurdity of the situation, I haven’t been even remotely as excited about anything I’ve been asked to do in the past four years as I have at this opportunity. It may very well be the coolest thing I’ve ever done as an instructional technologist—if that makes any sense.

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8 Responses to “My mother is a fish”

  1. Martha says:

    Is this a typo?:

    “Regardless of the absurdity of the situation, I haven’t been even remotely excited about anything I’ve been asked to do in the past four years. . ”

    cause if not, that’s kind of sad, Rev.

  2. Martha says:

    also, the absurdity is definitely worthy of love. 🙂

  3. Reverend says:


    You got me, I changed it. It should read “remotely as excited” which was an attempt to suggest just how excited I am. I have been very excited about many things I have done these last years as an instructional technologist, as you know quite well. But the very idea that I would be asked to talk about Absalom, absalom! with free range to tie it into anything I want is pretty wild for me. It just doesn’t compute, and that’s why I love it so. It’s against the very logic of the whole system, and re-imagines the spaces in some very exciting ways 🙂

  4. Mara says:

    Don’t drop on your plush fainting couch, TBJG, but we agree 100% again: there is nothing like Absalom! Absalom! The first time I read it was on my parents’ front porch in PA in a sultry August, and when my mom called me I couldn’t tell if I was swimming up out of the humidity or the prose to try to recontact the world. Both– and I barely made it to the surface, believe me.

    Thanks for the shout out for my girl Julia Ruane and the excellent students of the FSEM! They will be pleased.

  5. I adore _As I Lay Dying_. Reading it in an awesome class helped make me an English major, leading down the dark path to being an English pr-f-ss-r. I can read out loud from any chapter with delight.

    I’ve been saving up Absalom, absalom!. Are you saying I should take the plunge?

  6. Reverend says:


    Without a doubt, the description of Mrs. Coldfield on the first 5 pages is worth the price of admission alone. Wonderful!

  7. I can dig it.

    (First Faulkner I read was _Sound and the Fury_, in a class called Madness, Meaninglessness, and Deviant Sexuality. Awesome.)

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