Critical Context

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Malcolm Cowley’s effort to promote Faulkner’s literary reputation after the end of World War II was largely successful. The Viking Portable selection from Faulkner’s work—edited by Cowley—brought Faulkner once again to the attention of the serious American reading public, and his reputation steadily increased until his reception of the Nobel Prize. Cowley stressed Faulkner’s achievement as a regional Southern writer, as “proprietor” of Yoknapatawpha County. Perhaps this was correct; at any rate, Faulkner’s “mythical kingdom” seized the imaginations of American readers. Pylon has no place in Yoknapatawpha County, and for some that may seem reason enough to exclude it from the canon of Faulkner’s finest novels. Yet that would be a mistake. It was written when Faulkner was producing other novels that are among his finest—Light in August and Absalom, Absalom! —and it has all their elan and creative complexity. It is an urban novel, just as successful as the novels set in his rural “mythical kingdom.” It will probably continue to fall victim to critical simplification, yet it will remain one of his half dozen most impressive novels.