Home » USA » William Faulkner

William Faulkner

Biography

William Faulkner was born William Falkner in 1897 in New Albany, Mississippi. He was named after his great-grandfather, himself a writer, who had died eight years previously in a duel. When Faulkner was five, the family moved to Oxford, Mississippi, where his grandfather opened a bank and his father tried various jobs. As a child, he showed interest and ability in writing and received encouragement from a childhood friend, Phil Stone, who got him a job in the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in New Haven, where his name was misspelled to Faulkner. However, he soon applied to the Canadian Air Force, where he lied to make himself more British, including spelling his name Faulkner. He saw no active service, as the war ended before he finished his training, though he gave the impression that he had done so.

On returning home, he enrolled in the University of Mississippi as a war veteran but dropped out after three semesters, though his first poem was published at this time. He worked at various jobs, including postmaster, but was unsuccessful at all. Phil Stone got his work – a collection of poetry – published in 1924. The following year he moved to New Orleans, where he associated with a group of writers, including Sherwood Anderson. It was Anderson who suggested that he send his first novel to Horace Liveright, who published it in 1926. After a trip to Europe – where he nearly met James Joyce – he continued writing. It was for his third novel – Sartoris – that he created Yocona County, later renamed to Yoknapatawpha County, though Liveright refused to publish it and it was only later published after extensive cuts were made. Meanwhile, he wrote a novel purely for pleasure, feeling that his career as a writer was over. This novel became The Sound and the Fury.

At this time, Faulkner married his childhood sweetheart (who had divorced her first husband) and now had a family to support. Sanctuary, with its rape and kidnapping, sold well but, in 1932, he turned to screenwriting, working primarily with Howard Hawks. He continued to write on or off for the cinema, particularly when his novels were not selling. In fact, his reputation did go down and was revived by the publication of the Portable Faulkner. His reputation was sealed with his award of the Nobel Prize in 1949 (though it was only announced n 1950). He spoke out against segregation and even fell out with his brother over the issue. He had continuing health problems, including various accidents and drinking problems. However, it was a heart attack that killed him in 1962.

Faulkner is often considered a difficult writer, not least because many people start with his most difficult novel, The Sound and the Fury. He is revered in the South of the USA but Northerners are often more sanguine. The French love him; the British have their doubts. While his reputation is secure, there are still questions in the minds of many. However, as the reputation of more realist writers like Hemingway has dropped, the reputation of more innovative writers like Faulkner has risen.

Books about William Faulkner

Joseph Blotner: Faulkner: A Biography
A. Nicholas Fargnoli and Michael Golay: William Faulkner A to Z
Richard J. Gray: The Life of William Faulkner: A Critical Biography
Robert W. Hamblin and Charles A. Peek: A William Faulkner Encyclopedia
Frederick Karl: William Faulkner, American Writer: A Biography
David Minter: William Faulkner: His Life and Work
Jay Parini: One Matchless Time : A Life of William Faulkner
Philip M. Weinstein (Editor): The Cambridge Companion to William Faulkner
Joel Williamson: William Faulkner and Southern History

Other sites

William Faulkner
William Faulkner
William Faulkner
William Faulkner American Writer 1897-1962
William Faulkner (from Nobel Prize site)
William Faulkner: A Centenary Celebration
The William Faulkner Society
The Faulkner Journal
Interview

Bibliography

1924 The Marble Faun (poetry)
1926 Soldiers’ Pay
1927 Mosquitoes
1929 Sartoris (later title: Flags in the Dust)
1929 The Sound and the Fury
1930 As I Lay Dying
1931 Sanctuary
1931 These Thirteen
1931 Idyll in the Desert
1932 Light in August
1932 Miss Zilphia Gant
1934 Doctor Martino, and Other Stories
1935 Pylon
1936 Absalom, Absalom
1938 The Unvanquished
1939 The Wild Palms (later title: If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem)
1940 The Hamlet
1942 Go Down, Moses, and Other Stories (later title: Go Down, Moses)
1942 Three Famous Short Novels (Spotted Horses; Old Man; The Bear)
1946 The Portable Faulkner
1948 Intruder in the Dust
1949 Knight’s Gambit
1950 Collected Stories
1950 Notes on a Horsethief
1951 Requiem for a Nun
1954 A Fable
1955 Big Woods
1957 The Town
1958 New Orleans Sketches
1958 Uncle Willy and Other Stories
1959 The Mansion
1961 Selected Short Stories
1962 The Reivers
1962 William Faulkner: Early Prose and Poetry
1962 Faulkner’s University of Mississippi Pieces
1964 The Wishing Tree
1965 The Tall Men and Other Stories
1965 A Green Bough (poetry)
1970 A Rose for Emily
1974 A Faulkner Miscellany
1975 The Marionettes (drama)
1976 Fairchild’s Story
1979 Uncollected Stories of William Faulkner
1979 Mississippi Poems
1981 Helen, a Courtship and Mississippi Poems
1989 The Faulkner Reader
Detailed bibliography