Faulkner’s Oxford

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Taylor’s carefully chosen subtitle accurately depicts the contents of the volume, for he recalls his meetings with Faulkner and reflects on sites significant to his biography and fiction. Taylor attempts to re-create the Oxford and Lafayette County that Faulkner transmuted into the Jefferson and Yoknapatawpha County of his mythic imagination.

Taylor’s actual meetings with Faulkner were few and somewhat tentative. He was five years old when he first saw Faulkner, who was then courting Estelle Oldham Franklin, later to become his wife. Taylor remembers playing with Faulkner’s stepchildren at their home and hearing Faulkner tell children’s stories. On a few occasions following his return from military service, Taylor was able to speak with Faulkner and received a cool reception. All of the encounters were brief, though a few provided enough Faulkner conversation for memorable literary ana.

In describing the sites mentioned by Faulkner in his fiction or used as settings for his works, Taylor clarifies how they appeared at the time. The organization is easily followed, for he leads the reader on a walking tour of appropriate places in Oxford, moving from the courthouse to the university, and then through the antebellum homes, woods, and commercial sites associated with Faulkner’s family or fiction. The book includes numerous photographs of homes and sites, many of them old enough to depict the buildings and vistas as Faulkner knew them. Taylor extends the locale county-wide by considering in turn each of the roads that radiate from Oxford in all directions.

In addition to associating local sites with Faulkner’s life and fiction, the book offers numerous conjectures about influences of people and places on Faulkner. Taylor makes a few original suggestions about Faulkner’s use of local people as sources for characters, and he reprints some of Faulkner’s writings—speeches, letters to newspapers, and handbills—of local interest.