Gut Rumbles

January 12, 2005

william faulkner

I believe that I read just about everything the man ever wrote. Many people call him the ultimate Southern writer, but I disagree. I liked his early works, but when he hit his "stream of consciousness" phase, he totally lost me. A lot of what he wrote then sounds like the raving of a drunken idiot.

Well, he did have a fondness for the bottle...

I read once that a reporter from Life magazine showed up at Faulkner's home in Mississippi and found him digging in his garden. She shouted, "Mr. Faulkner, some people call you outrageous. What do you think of that?"

According to the story, Faulkner walked up to her car, unzipped his fly and pissed right through her window. Then, he tucked his Johnson away and said, "I don't know what you're talking about."

If that story isn't true, it should be.


I was always partial to Papa Hemingway, m'self.

'Course, it could have something to do with his fondness for the Thompson submachine gun...

Posted by: Jay G. on January 12, 2005 04:34 PM

My favorite story is of some 'literary female' who met him at a party after the publication of "Sanctuary." She fluttered up and asked him, "Oh, Mr. Faulker, I understand writers always put themselves in their work. What character are you?"
Faulkner replied, "The corncob."

Wish I could have seen that.

Posted by: BlogDog on January 12, 2005 04:50 PM

Having grown up in northern Mississippi, I was required to read Faulkner and write an essay on him before I graduated high school. I found the same flaw in him that you earlier discussed in Meliville, I ran across several sentences (with parentheses in them, which we were taught at the time to avoid like the plague) that ran on for several pages.

The early work of Faulkner was much better, in my opinion, than his later, alcohol affected work.

Not that I'm anti-alcohol, I enjoy a wee nip of the Scotch frequently. I just try to avoid performing work I'm doing to get paid for under the influence.

Posted by: Jack on January 12, 2005 05:01 PM

Faulkner's middle period was his best, in my opinion, 1929-1942. ( The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, The Unvanquished, The Wild Palms, Light in August, and the great Absalom, Absalom!) Just those books Rob doesn't like. The early work (Mosquitos, Soldier's Pay, was mediocre). After Go Down, Moses, he lost steam. The Snopes trilogy and A Fable don't move me. The Reivers was fun, for a swan song.

In his younger days, the old drunk was known in Oxford as Count No 'Count.

I still don't buy Rob's purported thesis that the complicated, or ornate, if you will, is bad writing. If he loves Shakespeare, he's happy with very sophisticated, very convoluted, very messy work. So am I.

I'll take a good story anytime, too, and am with Rob in his high assessment of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Stylistic experimentation results from the fact that limited humans don't have all that many stories to tell: every new one is a redecorated old one.

A professor once told me there are only two stories: "I set out on a journey" and "a stranger came to town." I had a good day when I pointed out that those two were really one story.
My qualifications to opine upon literature equal his, so I'm not intimidated by his arguments from authority. I know he is an excellent writer who could do without sneer quotes.

Posted by: Brett on January 12, 2005 05:14 PM

Soldier's Pay was his first novel, trying to take on Dostoyevsky. Mosquitos was his second, trying to take on Flaubert. He caught on with Sound & Fury. But I prefer Absalom, Absalom! and Light in August. As I Lay Dying is damned fine too. Yep, Go Down, Moses was his last great novel. Although the teacher sniffing the girl's desk seat in the Snopes trilogy (the Hamlet?) was a worthy scene.

Posted by: Velociman on January 12, 2005 07:04 PM

One of my favorite classes in college was southern writers. I took southern women writers after, but it wasn't as good as the first.

Posted by: Geoffrey on January 12, 2005 10:18 PM

I'm curious. What, exactly, is a southern writer? True to the heart?

Posted by: Sam on January 13, 2005 12:54 AM
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