Faulkner, William (Vol. 18)
Faulkner, William 1897–1962
See also William Faulkner Criticism (Volume 1), and Volumes 3, 6, 8, 9, 11, 14, 28.
Faulkner, an American novelist, short story writer, and poet, is considered one of this century's most influential and highly regarded novelists. Derived from the southern oral tradition and existing somewhere between storyteller and listener, Faulkner's novels together form one larger work, the saga of a single imaginary world in which the characters are both sustained and contained by the region—more philosophical than geographical—that is Faulkner's deep South. Time, remembered but unrecorded, merges with what William Barrett calls "that peculiar fullness of time that is found in myth …, the time of the land itself—of the rhythm of the seasons, death and renewal, sowing and reaping," at the center of Faulkner's saga. Twice the recipient of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, Faulkner received the Nobel Prize in 1950.
It may seem an exaggeration to look for [the] theological substructures in Faulkner's work, yet the critics have all been struck by his "puritanism," meaning by that term both his visible disgust before the mystery of sex and his deep-seated misogyny—quite natural in a world in which the Immaculate Virgin has not yet come to reestablish the order of things altered by Eve. Faulkner has at least once expressly referred to the Bible in one of his titles (Absalom, Absalom!)—precisely the one that most evokes the Hebraic ritual of meditation on the past. In addition, I do not see how—except by this perpetual referral of contemporary events to a sacred context that gives them their full meaning—one can explain the extravagant title of Sanctuary given to a story that is sordid to an extreme…. We are all familiar with the suggestion that Sanctuary marks the appearance of Greek tragedy in the mystery novel, but the tragedy, with its cruelty to which even death cannot put an end, is much more of a biblical nature.
It is thus a sacred spell Faulkner wants to cast over us, and the methods—or, if you prefer, the tricks—by which he exercises his magnetic power deserve a closer scrutiny. The most common one consists in having the real order of events reconstituted by (that is, in having the story told by) a spectator of the drama who is at first external and indifferent to it but who quickly becomes...
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Tony J. Owens
Although some of William Faulkner's short fiction is beginning to receive the critical attention it has long deserved, those stories that resist ready categorization, particularly those that lie outside the realm of Yoknapatawpha County, remain neglected. "Artist at Home" is such a work. An enigmatic, ironic, and not wholly successful story, it nevertheless makes significant use of narrative techniques, characterizations, and important themes that recur throughout Faulkner's work. The story's concern with the relation of art to life, with contrasting modes of perception and action, and with the modern dissociation of art and experience make it an important work. "Artist at Home" is also a rare example of Faulkner's direct representation of the artist figure. As an integral part of a larger continuum, it presents both a culmination of Faulkner's early artistic portraits and an anticipation of larger and related themes of perception, responsibility, and action.
The outline of the story is deceptively simple, based upon a typical husband-wife-lover triangle and concerned with the reactions of each to what is apparently an adulterous situation. But the conventional plot is complicated by the presence of a biased, unreliable narrator and an emphasis upon unusually complex human and artistic dilemmas. (p. 393)
First published in 1933, "Artist at Home" was probably composed early in 1931. The relatively early composition...
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"Mistral" combines the mysterious death of a young village man on the eve of his wedding, with a priest's illicit passion for his beautiful female ward, the dead man's fiancée, and hence recalls not only the romantic suspicion and intrigue of "Jealousy" and "The Cobbler,"… but also the portrait of a libidinous, tormented priest, originally intended as part of the series of short stories and prose sketches Faulkner published in the Times-Picayune between February and September 1925.
As he subsequently did with several other tales (e.g., "Red Leaves," "Dry September," and "That Evening Sun"), Faulkner chose a title indicative of the story's correlation of theme and environmental conditions. The mistral, or tramontane—a dry, cold northerly wind that blows in squalls throughout the area of the northern Mediterranean—is an apt symbol for the extremity of the story's action. The maddening, harassing mistral, which penetrates the walls of the presbytery, parallels and even aggravates the private agony and eventual derangement—itself the product of imposed isolation—that causes the priest to become involved in underhanded and finally violent activities. As Faulkner puts it in "Mistral," "Maybe in any natural exaggerated situation—wind, rain, drouth—man is always alone." (pp. 413-14)
"Mistral" is … fraught with loose ends and unresolved questions. The fact that so much of the action is uncertain, the...
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Many informed Americans now consider William Faulkner to be the greatest American fiction writer of the 20th century and just possibly in our history. But his achievement of such recognition came to him with a painful slowness. He was 53 when he won the Nobel Prize, and in his acceptance speech he described his life's work as having been accomplished "in the agony and sweat of the human spirit…." Many of us now know enough about his life to realize that he did not exaggerate.
A distressing element was the circumstance that those novels written in the agony of the human spirit did not sell…. Faulkner frequently complained to his close friends and his literary agents that as a consequence he was forced to grind out short stories for the Saturday Evening Post and such like magazines to keep bread and meat on the table. His other expedient was to go to Hollywood and work as a scriptwriter….
[One] must welcome Joseph Blotner's edition of the hitherto uncollected stories [The Uncollected Stories of William Faulkner]. The intelligent reader will not, of course, expect it to be a florilegium culled from the Faulknerian garden. Uncollected Stories is not that sort of book. It amounts to no more than what its title claims: a collection of stories which, for one reason or another, were not printed in Knight's Gambit (1949) or in Collected Stories (1950). Some of the stories that appear...
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M. E. Bradford
[Faulkner's short fiction that was] not included in Collected Stories and Knight's Gambit—has survived only in the bound files of old magazines and in hard-to-find books: in obscure, out-of-the-way publications or in editions long out of print. Moreover, at the author's death in 1962, there were 13 essentially complete narratives left in manuscript, surviving but not conveniently available to students of Faulkner's career. With the Uncollected Stories of William Faulkner, Joseph Blotner, who has already written the authorized biography and edited a selection of the letters, completes the Faulkner canon and brings us toward a remedy of the situation just described. Though the book has its obvious commercial characteristics, and is painful after the fashion of all gathered literary remains, it was a job that had to be done.
The first half of Uncollected Stories is made up of twenty narratives which first appeared independently and were subsequently incorporated into Faulkner novels. We know the tales which they recount as chapters of The Unvanquished, The Hamlet, Go Down, Moses, The Mansion, and The Big Woods. The differences between the two versions of the narratives tell us a good deal about the aesthetic principles Faulkner followed in his revisions, and therefore about his craft: his attempts "to reduce the passion and beauty of being alive into something concrete that can be held in the...
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Calvin S. Brown
The Uncollected Stories is not merely an act of publication, but a work of serious and useful scholarship. As the editor explains, it "consists of three kinds of stories: those which William Faulkner published but never reprinted in any of his short-story collections, those which he later revised to become parts of later books, and those which have remained until now unpublished." (p. 221)
It is a useful service to make the stories which were revised for inclusion in later books conveniently available…. For the general reader who knows his Faulkner but has no desire to collate texts, reading these stories is a fascinating experience. Such a reader is not aware of all the minor changes (Blotner mentions major ones, like a different narrator or point of view, in his notes), but is aware of a story that is in a way the one that he already knows, but is, in ways which he cannot always pin down, different in the telling and the effect. An excellent example is "The Hound," which, in thirteen pages, gives the heart of a story of a murder and the difficulties of disposing of the body—a story which has already been built up in the reader's mind in successive layers of rich detail in the novels of the Snopes trilogy….
The interest of the uncollected and the unpublished stories is of a different sort. There is no need to separate these two categories, since both are new material for the general reader of Faulkner....
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