William Cuthbert Faulkner, easily the most famous author from Mississippi, was born 25 September 1897 and died 6 July 1962. For his writing, he was awarded the Nobel Prize. He lived the large part of his life in Oxford, MS, in his house which he had named Rowan Oak. The geography of the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, in which most of his work is set, is nearly identical to that of Lafayette County (the local pronunciation is la-FAY-ette), of which Oxford is the county seat. Perhaps his most famous works are As I Lay Dying, Absalom, Absalom!, and that confusing work of genius that has given countless students of literature headaches, The Sound and the Fury.

The most famous lines from his Nobel Prize acceptance speech that "I decline to accept the end of man . . . . I believe that man will not only endure, he will prevail," are emblazoned on the wall of the library at his alma mater--and a frequent site for Faulkner studies--the University of Mississippi, also located in Oxford.

The story is also told of him that before he became a famous author, he worked at the post office. Rather than perform his duties of sorting mail and attending to patrons, he preferred to spend his time playing cards in the back room. He eventually quit, reportedly saying that he'd rather not work than "be at the beck and call of every son of a bitch with a two-cent stamp."

He died at Wright's Sanatorium in Byhalia, Mississippi, after an illness, and he and his wife are buried together in the Oxford cemetary--a frequent site for university students playing hide-and-go-seek and lovers gone to seek some privacy. The gravesite itself is occasionally used for the student ritual of "making peace with Faulkner." In order to propitiate the author's ghost for running amuck on the grounds of his home and his university and in his beloved town, half a bottle of whiskey--Faulkner was by reputation quite a drinker--is poured on the grave, and the other half drunk by the the one making the sacrifice. Supposedly, this will allow the newcomer to live in peace.


Sources: My own recollections from what I heard in Oxford and at Ole Miss, and a brief bio by Richard Howorth, owner of Square Books (and currently Oxford's mayor), at http://www.squarebooks.com/faulkner/index.php

In response to Mr. Faulkner's Nobel Prize acceptance speech, which can be found at at http://www.nobel.se/literature/laureates/1949/faulkner-speech.html:

Perhaps one day, when I am an embittered old woman, I too will make patently false statements like, "There are no longer problems of the spirit." Hopefully, however, I will not be so embittered that I see the present as a bleak and empty era punctuated only by the thought of "When will I be blown up?" It's sad that Faulkner felt as if we writers of the future did not understand that there is truly only one subject to be written about: the complexities of the human heart.

What interests me most about his speech is the closing sentence:
"The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail."

Is Faulkner implying that the poet's voice is the soul of humanity? Then it logically follows that man is made immortal by his very soul; in essence, through his poetry. Poetry is the soul; the soul is poetry. An interesting proposition.

William Faulkner's career:
Publication of Faulkner's novels:
  • Soldiers' Pay, Boni & Liveright, 1926, published with author's speech of acceptance of Nobel Prize, New American Library of World Literature, 1959.
  • Mosquitoes, Boni and Liveright, 1927.
  • Sartoris, Harcourt, 1929.
  • The Sound and the Fury, J. Cape & H. Smith, 1929, new edition published as The Sound and the Fury: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Contexts, Criticism, Norton (New York City), 1994.
  • As I Lay Dying, J. Cape & H. Smith, 1930, new and corrected edition, Random House, 1964.
  • Sanctuary, J. Cape & H. Smith, 1931, published as Sanctuary: The Original Text, edited with afterword and notes by Noel Polk, Random House, 1981, published as Sanctuary: The Corrected Text, Random House, 1993.
  • Light in August, H. Smith and R. Haas, 1932.
  • Pylon, H. Smith and R. Haas, 1935.
  • Absalom, Absalom!, Random House, 1936, casebook edition edited by Elisabeth Muhlenfeld published as William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!, Garland Publishing, 1984.
  • The Unvanquished, drawings by Edward Shenton, Random House, 1938.
  • The Wild Palms, Random House, 1939, published as If I Forgot Thee Jerusalem: The Wild Palms by Vintage New York City), 1995.
  • The Hamlet (first book in the "Snopes Trilogy"), Random House, 1940.
  • Intruder in the Dust, Random House, 1948.
  • Requiem for a Nun, Random House, 1951.
  • A Fable, Random House, 1954.
  • The Town (second book of the "Snopes Trilogy";), Random House, 1957.
  • The Long Hot Summer: A Dramatic Book from the Four-Book Novel; The Hamlet, New American Library, 1958.
  • The Mansion (third book in the "Snopes Trilogy"; also see below), Random House, 1959.
  • The Reivers, a Reminiscence, Random House, 1962.
  • Mayday, University of Notre Dame Press, 1976.
  • Father Abraham, Random House, 1984, published as Father Abraham, 1926, Garland Publishing, 1987.
  • Elmer, edited by Dianne L. Cox, foreword by James B. Meriwether, Seajay Society, 1984.
  • Humo/Smoke, Aims International Books, 1998.

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