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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: William Faulkner, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 13 of 13
1. What Was On Marilyn Monroe’s Reading List?

The iconic actress Marilyn Monroe may have played the role of a ditzy blonde in many films, but she was actually quite the bookworm whose reading preferences included books by James Joyce and Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Open Culture has more: “Once married to playwright Arthur Miller, Monroe stocked about 400 books on her shelves, many of which were later catalogued and auctioned off by Christie’s in New York City.”

Library Thing has made a list of 261 titles that were a part of Monroe’s personal library. Books on the list include: Out Of My Later Years by Albert Einstein; Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert; The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner; as well as poetry collections from Robert Frost, John Milton, and Edgar Allen Poe, among others. (Via Gothamist).

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2. What Do Writers Owe the People in Their Lives?


Ta-Nehisi Coates recently featured an interview with William Faulkner that naturally had an incredible array of quotable material, but which focused in part on the responsibility an author has to their art.

The meat:
The writer's only responsibility is to his art. He will be completely ruthless if he is a good one. He has a dream. It anguishes him so much he must get rid of it. He has no peace until then. Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written. If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is worth any number of old ladies.
Faulkner comes from the kill, maim, dismember school of artistry, where the work is paramount and the lives that are affected are of secondary concern.

Easy to say. Not so much to do.

Many writers I know, especially memoirists or those who pull material from their real lives, grapple with the morality of affecting personal relationships in order to put forth their writing. When I heard him speak a few weeks back, Jonathan Franzen recounted how he hesitated using a thinly veiled version of his brother in The Corrections.

How should a writer navigate this tricky path? Does the work of art ultimately reign supreme over the feelings of the people who may be hurt in the process of creating a book? What should an author be prepared to sacrifice? What do writers owe the other people in their lives?

Photograph of William Faulkner by Carl Van Vechten. Please see the Wikimedia Commons page for information on the Vechten estate's requests for reproducing his photographs.

51 Comments on What Do Writers Owe the People in Their Lives?, last added: 8/1/2012
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3. Headed back to Faulkner country

The last time I visited Oxford, Mississippi, at the end of a trip through ancestral haunts in the Delta, I stopped by Faulkner’s grave, Rowan Oak, and Square Books, and consumed my weight in sweet tea and fried catfish with my favorite aunt. I’m sure I’ll do some of the same things this weekend, when I’m in town for the Oxford Conference for the Book to talk online publishing with Jack Pendarvis, Anya Groner, and Michael Bible. Other speakers include Barbara Epler, Josh Weil, Steve Yarbrough, and Ken Auletta, to name just a few.

I found a new polka dotted dress for the occasion, and managed to rope one Carrie Frye into meeting me there. I wish I had an extra day or two to get over to Eudora Welty’s house and my Great Aunt Maude’s official state archives in Jackson, but I fly back Sunday for a couple days before heading to speak at Butler University next week. Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to Gulf Coast oysters, mint juleps in their native habitat, and good company.

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4. Mark Twain’s Library & Other Pleasures

I won’t make you wait for it. My apologies for the spillover into the sidebar, but it would require actual skill to adjust the size of the photo. So, like, that’s not happening!

This is Mark Twain’s first-floor library in his Hartford, Connecticut, home. How cool is that?

You can thank Emily Temple of Flavorwire for that shot, since she recently compiled a hot batch of photographs featuring the libraries of famous writers, inspired, in part, by the recent publication of Leah Price’s new book, Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books.

Below, a few more of my favorites . . .

Joan Didion, John Dunne, daughter Quintana Roo, and dog.

William Faulkner collected old books, apparently. Oh, wait.

Anne Sexton’s shelves look so . . . normal.

Norman Mailer lived in Brooklyn Heights, not far from my brother. But Norman had more books, and a better apartment. He also liked lamps.

This Rolling Stone gathers no moss, but collects books, obviously. If you are really in a Keith mood, go here for my ultimate “Keef Sings” mix.

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5. Oprah Winfrey’s Double Dickens Book Club Pick

Oprah Winfrey picked a classic double header for her latest book club selection, choosing Charles DickensGreat Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities.

During her announcement, Winfrey noted: “I’m going old, old school … Normally I only choose books that I have read, but I must shamefully admit to you all that I have never read Dickens.”

Winfrey will use Penguin’s new $20 paperback containing both books and nearly 800 pages. Amazon noted yesterday they have free Kindle editions of both titles. Penguin offers a $7.99 digital edition that includes illustrations, author background, and historical information.

continued…

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6. You might be a writer if...

I've been knee-deep in world-creation these last weeks. I'm writing a retelling of Frankenstein set in a dystopian future, which means the world is mine to make (and break). It got me to thinking about DesCartes. Cogito ergo sum...I think therefore I am. As an author, I not only think my characters into being. I think their world into being. Kind of leaves an all-powerful aftertaste.

You might be a writer if...you've developed a god complex.

And society thought only surgeons could do that. How little does the world know about the secret lives of writers. Saving limbs and lives is nothing in the daily routine of a writer. We create worlds. Destroy them. Shape alternate universes for our own. Rewrite history. And make it all so real, readers cry, laugh, rejoice and hate as passionately as they do in the real world.

It can leave a writer feeling a bit like god.

I have to admit, though, the godliness I experience is not only that of a god of great joy but one plagued by  doubt, concern, tears, frustration, and hopelessness. It is an ever so fatally human god. Still, to be a writer means to think like a god. To be willing not only to breathe life into characters and worlds but also to destroy them with wrath, vengeance, or worst of all, for the good of the story. We kill our darlings, in the words of Faulkner.

I giggle to myself guiltily now when my husband (he's a doc himself) talks surgeons and god-complexes. If only he knew, he was living with a writer who suffers than very same complex squared.

At least he hasn't found all of those darlings stuffed under the floorboards yet. Or the alternate worlds that are crammed into the closets. Nobody ever said just because we kill or destroy our darlings we have to throw them away. We writers may be dastardly but we are environmentally conscious. We recycle nixed storylines and characters all of the time. That's the great thing about playing god. We can kill them off one day and bring them back to life the next.

Ah, the joys of being a writer!

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7. Favourite Books of 2007 from OUP-UK

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By Kirsty OUP-UK

While Rebecca has been quizzing the publishing world of New York, I have been hounding people a little closer to home: the staff of OUP here in Oxford. Here is what we’ve been reading on this side of the Pond in 2007…

Kate Farquhar-Thomson, Head of Publicity
Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees by Richard Deakin. As an outdoors girl this journey through the woods and forests of both this country and abroad evokes a sense of being at one with nature in all its grandeur. I loved the book and could read it over and over each time discovering something new. (more…)

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8. Moonrat's Celebrate Reading Pick

I have a slight advantage over most people when it comes to looking back over the course of my life to pick one important book and being sure I haven't forgotten to think about any. This is because I'm a huge dork and, after being inspired by an All Things Considered soundbyte in 1999, have been logging every single thing I read--title, author, date, brief comments--into a blue spiral-bound notebook. To make my decision about which book was most important to me, all I would have had to do was flip through.

But in the end, I chose a book that isn't in my notebook because I finished reading it on March 26th, 1999, less than a month before I started keeping the notebook (yes, I remember the date I finished reading it--that should be an argument for its lasting resonance if anything is).

What have I chosen, already?! you're asking. Well, I've committed a sin. I've chosen a very book that every single snobby tall-nosed self-conscious masturbatory pseudo-intellectual tells older men at cocktail parties--particularly their aging bosses who need to be "impressed"--that they loved. I've chosen a book that no one in their right mind actually enjoys reading, but is so effin' pleased with themselves for getting through that they tell everyone they loved it and that it changed their life. And after awhile they begin to think they actually liked it. I might as well have chosen something by James Joyce.

Alas. I have picked THE SOUND AND THE FURY, by William Faulkner. Tragedy of tragedies. I cringe whenever people tell me at a bar, a party, or a job interview that they "love" Faulkner. Pompous cerebral assholes. I know when they say that that they are EXACTLY LIKE ME!--intellectual poseurs. But I can solidly say after a couple hours of flipping through the Book Book that it honestly takes the prize. Here's why--and hopefully not for the reasons you're expecting.

I didn't ever intend to read the book, originally, but it was foisted upon me by the English teacher who changed my life. For the purposes of this blog, let's call her Mrs. Miller. I was in tenth grade at a large rural public school as socially far away from New York City as you can imagine and I was very, very tightly wound about getting into college. Mrs. Miller was in her late seventies at the time, a recovering book editor who had ended up in her second career trapped in a leaking suburban hell and convincing neurotic tenth-graders that they had something to live for besides the SATs. She was--and is--a living legend.

Rumors and horror stories had been passed along down from graduated tenth grader to tenth grader for as many years as anyone could remember. There were often two tests a week, but there was always at least one, on vocabulary and grammar every Friday. And it was hell. Seriously, you can't imagine these tests. The first day of class was a test, in fact, which everyone always failed. My year, it was on Herman Melville's BILLY BUDD, and when the girl next to me got a 76 Mrs. Miller looked positively thwarted. On parent-teacher open house day, she would arrive, every year without hiccup, with a scarlet A pinned to her dress. This was a little cerebral for some of the parents, but most at that point knew we'd suffered through three grueling tests on THE SCARLET LETTER by early October and basically had the book memorized in hopes that we'd avoid the fourth. During our class when we were discussing Hawthorne's use of pathetic fallacy (that is, the literary device that employs weather and other natural indicators to reflect the timbre of the story) a junior named Diego, who had suffered the whole Miller regime and somehow left in one piece, weaseled into our classroom and wrote on the blackboard behind her:

PATHETIC: your grade
FALLACY: thinking you'll ever understand this stuff

We laughed, in our pain.

Another famous Millerism was the spring "Thesis." Everyone spent the entire spring semester working on one piece of American literature and came up with one original thesis on that book, on which they wrote one 20-age paper. No more than 25% of the parenthetical documentation could be taken from the primary source, and no more than 10% from any single secondary source--and yes, she counted. She also spent three weeks following up all of our citations to make sure we hadn't cut any corners. Part of our grade was determined by the index cards on which we were supposed to take our notes--we each turned in at least the required minimum 400 close citations, all color-coded and alphabet catagorized. This was how I learned to index, incidentally.

Even after four pretty darn diligent years at a notoriously intense college, I can still Girl Scout Promise you that this was the single most rigorous piece of academic work I ever did.

In late February, we were to choose our title. We were given a list of acceptable American novels. Deviation from the list was acceptable (with strong argument) but not encouraged. We were to write up 200-word proposals about why we should be allowed to read a particular book on the list. The list was a thinly veiled waterfall from least snooty and erudite to most, and we all saw through that one quickly. We were about to be striated. The last three titles on the list were, in order, AS I LAY DYING, LIGHT IN AUGUST, and THE SOUND & THE FURY.

My arch nemesis, whom for the sake of this blog we shall call Rick O'Malley, the staight A mathlete who printed his vocab homework on cloud-patterned stationary (keep in mind, this was back in the age when most of us didn't even have computers in our houses, never mind printers), went straight for the nuggets with LIGHT IN AUGUST. I saw the knock-down he took about "what would be more appropriate" before he was reassigned A FAREWELL TO ARMS. Oh, SNAP!! My momma didn't raise no fool. I meekly pitched my proposal for THE HOUSE OF MIRTH.

No, nope. That wasn't gonna fly. "Too easy," said Miller. "No laziness from you."

"No laziness," I choked out.

"I think what you WANT to do is THE SOUND AND THE FURY. Isn't that what you want?"

That's right, Rick O'Malley. Straight to the bottom of the list.

The actual reading of the book itself isn't really important. In fact--we're being honest here, and also, I'm anonymous, so you can't even run off and report me to Rick--I didn't get most of the book at all. After reading it twice, cover to cover, and reading more than 30 literary theses on the book, I know all the issues back and forth and inside out. And I LOVE them. But it wouldn't be 100% honest to say that I really enjoyed reading them at the time.

So why was this the book that changed my life? Well, most immediately, because I won Mrs. Miller's respect by doing it. She set me a task, and I rose to it. She annointed me as one of her chosen, wrote my recommendations, grilled me in grammar (she's the reason, for example, that the production manager at my company stopped the production meeting a couple of weeks ago to ask me if I had any idea what the difference between "toward" and "towards" was, and then, after I gave her a 30-second historical usage synopsis, said, "Somehow I just had a feeling you'd know the answer"). She clucked her tongue in disappointment when I confessed I wasn't majoring in English (although she had been a history major herself--"don't repeat my mistakes!" she cried), but then hugged me with relief when it all turned out ok and I veered back toward editorial, the track, I see now, she wanted me on from the beginning.

But is it fair or happy to confess that the book you love most dearly you love because of what it says to someone else about you?

I have yet another confession (but you know how I am with confessions)--I really DO love Faulkner. But it took me years and years to understand how and why. When I finally prised myself away from my "break down every single goshdarn word and understand it!!" approach and let myself sink into impressionistic absorbtion--and yes, that does include plowing through stretched of pages at a time without really taking in what's going on on occasion--I find that I get enough of it to fall in love with the book despite what I've missed.

But I love his language, and I love what he has to say. I'm certifiably obsessed with his ideas about fictional retelling, although this didn't sink in until I read ABSALOM, ABSALOM! in college, and I have to say that book was even more opaque to me the first time through than TS&TF was. I planned my entire ambitious (and now wisely burned and buried) first novel around what Faulkner taught me about relative truths. But there we go with the overly cerebral again.

So I guess the short story is I love Faulkner mostly because I love what being able to say I've read him means to people at the other end of the conversation, and I hate myself because that's the guiltiest and stupidest reason to love an author. But more deeply and more darkly, I secretly actually do love Faulkner, despite what saying I love him makes people think about me.

I've run my stint as a pseudo-intellectual (funny, I originally typed that as "untellectual") and I got tired and fed up with myself. I don't think I'm a stupid girl, and I'm confident enough in that belief that I'm now comfortable admitting that no, I didn't get the whole novel the first time through. In fact, I still don't get all of it. Yes, the specter of incest throughout haunts me and I still can't decide if I think it actually happened or not, and yes, my solution for reconciling this basic plot misunderstanding is pushing it out of my mind and thinking about some other book. This after ten years.

But you know what? I'm ok with that now. I don't need to fight to be the expert anymore. The impressionism is just fine with me.

So I raise my glass (he was an alcoholic, after all) to Faulkner, who changed my mind and my relationships. Trite as it may be, for Celebrate Reading Month I've got to celebrate you.

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9. Collisions

I have been at work on a book off and on for two years, as I have previously posted. It's an historical novel, deeply researched, and three voices carry the plot.

Here is the lesson of a multiply voiced novel: Collisions are essential, and they should not look like coincidence. The collisions (between characters, within moments, across voices) must carry meaning. They must signify.

I work on the signifiers now. It is slow but fascinating going. I look to the masters to see how it is done—Louise Erdrich, William Faulkner, and now Jayne Anne Phillips in her new novel, Lark & Termite, which got her a starred PW review, for starters, but more than that, it has Tim O'Brien saying:

What a beautiful, beautiful novel this is—so rich and intricate in its drama, so elegantly written, so tender, so convincing, so penetrating, so incredibly moving. I can declare without hesitation or qualification that Lark and Termite is by far the best new novel I've read in the last five years or so.

I'd love to know of other masters of collision, of when you think multiply voiced novels work.

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10. Scuttering Halt Again

Yesterday, an argument deep into the night: What is the value of work that does not reach toward and appeal to the broader spectrum—that does not, through whichever (often mysterious) mechanisms this happens, become, in its own time, popularly known? An old question, certainly not original.

There were three of us, and on the table between us sat Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, a book that I am re-reading for the fourth time which, when it comes to Faulkner and me, often feels like the first time, so wrangled and new are the sentences, the phrasing, the means of disclosure.

And I kept saying, or trying to say, or wanting to say, that those who stand in the margins taking risks, who fight against all odds to get their stories heard by some one, or two right now, today, matter (that is, they, too, have meaning) because they redirect the eye and ear, force a new kind of attending, herald emergent byways.

My words useless and inarticulate, and besides, I should have simply quoted from Faulkner himself, who didn't write sentences the way others did and didn't tell stories that had (over and over) been told and who wasn't writing (I would guess) for the "average" reader, whomever that is. Who mixed up language so newly that horse and his rider got rendered in rigid terrific hiatus and scuttering halt:

They stand in rigid terrific hiatus, the horse trembling and groaning. Then Jewel is on the horse's back. He flows upward in a stooping swirl like the lash of a whip, his body in midair shaped to the horse. For another moment the horse stands spraddled, with lowered head, before it bursts into motion. They descend the hill in a series of spine-jolting jumps, Jewel high, leech-like, on the withers, to the fence where the horse bunches into a scuttering halt again.

7 Comments on Scuttering Halt Again, last added: 12/12/2008
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11. You Might Be a Writer If...

Do people come up to you and ask you to tell their story? Do you walk away from school visits with loads of new story ideas that kids give you like sticks of gum? Do adults drop hints about stories you could work on?

What about your family? Are they the worst of all?

You might be a writer if...you hear "you should write this" A LOT.

"You should write this" comes out of all corners. For a while, when I was still a newbie to writing, I didn't hear it at all. It's like being the new kid on the block. People around you can't figure out if you're in the writing gig for good, or you're goofing off.

Then that first book or article comes out, and whoa, ideas suddenly come flying toward you.

I didn't know what to do with them at first. Listen and nod politely? File them away? Write them out? Where is the advice on this in the writer operating instructions booklet?

What people want me to do, I've learned through trial and error, varies greatly. Okay, they all hope I write the ideas into something, but how those ideas should turn out is what varies so much.

Kids are the best. At school visits, I get all kinds of ideas tossed at me, like so many colorful balls. I try to volley them back because, you know, I might actually be talking to the next William Faulkner or Stephen King. You never know. Maybe all they need is a little push. I've seen some amazing stuff from kids nobody would ever expect had so much writing talent. So, each time a child tells me "you should write this" I say, "what if you did?" (And then there are a few ideas, I admittedly stick in my pocket. I did mention last week we authors like to pilfer.)

Adults are a little trickier. They sort of expect you to write out an idea if they take the time to tell you about it. Some of them are pretty good. A friend of mine met me and my family at our most favorite donut shop on Saturday before soccer. My family and I LOVE this donut shop. Family run. The donut maker is a real artist. He makes donuts into shapes and then colors them. I've never seen anything like it anywhere. And they taste fantabulous. It's worth traveling to Tulsa just to try them. Believe me. So it's probably not all that surprising that my friend suggested (as I was on my 3rd donut) I do an article on the origins of donuts. Now that happened to be a very good idea. Because I'm just itching to get back in the kitchen and interview this donut master, if he'll let me in. Plus, it turns out, the Dutch came up with donuts. So I'm altering my trip to Europe this summer to make a pass through Amsterdam so I can photograph some Dutch donuts. That was an amazing idea. No strings attached.

The tricky part comes when it's family. My immediate family is one thing. They live with me and they've learned that I pilfer, change up, and turn into something new. If they share an idea with me, who knows what it might turn into or where. And if it's my kids, I try to put the idea right back in their hands and challenge them to write something. I don't always succeed. Case in point. My daughter was at the opera this week. Her first time. She came home with three tickets.

Daughter: (Holds out tickets with huge smile on face) "I've got something for your blog."
Me: "Thanks, sweetie. That's really nice, but why don't you write about your trip?"
Daughter: (Face falls. Hand lowers.) "But I got them for you. I collected them off the floor so you'd have more than one. Can't you use them, please???"
Me: (Guilt-ridden and seriously impressed that her journalistic skills are kicking in so early.) "Okay."
Here they are:

When it comes to my extended family, grandparents, aunts, uncles, things get really tricky. I am my family's memory keeper. Not their story teller because that would mean I could pilfer and pillage history with abandon and then turn it into anything I want. Not when it's family. I'm the historian. The biographer. The living tape recorder (if such things still exist). When my family gives me an idea, they want it transferred to paper exactly as it happened. If I don't, well, there have been some sticky moments. And disppointment. Pencil thin lips and shaking heads. Sigh. Family events mean double duty. First record then take said events back to my secret writing lab and tinker with until I infuse them with new life Buahahahahhaha. (evil mad scientist laugh)

"You should write this". We get it a lot. It's often pretty helpful. Many of us use it. But what to do about the expectations that are attached to it? Maybe we should follow the movie industry, issue a disclaimer: The characters and events depicted in this piece are purely fictional. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Can I write with abandon now?

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12. William Faulkner’s Inner Demons

Joanna Ng, Intern

William Faulkner was arguably the greatest American novelist of the twentieth century. In a new biography of the writer entitled 9780195341539Becoming Faulkner: The Art and Life of William Faulkner, Philip Weinstein narrates the events of Faulkner’s life while discussing their impact on his work. Weinstein is Alexander Griswold Cummins Professor of English at Swarthmore College. In the following excerpt, Weinstein gets inside Faulkner’s head as the novelist struggles with recurring problems involving his family and his addiction to alcohol.

He was not unconscious the whole time. Specific details would flare into focus, then flee as swiftly as they had come. All he knew for sure was that he could not move, though he could not remember why. Where was he anyway?…An image arose in his mind: he was in New York, at his favorite hotel, the Algonquin. He had come here to complete the contracts with Random House for The Unvanquished: which meant that it was November 1937. He had come here to forget something as well – he suddenly knew what that was – but he had less luck there. Meta Carpenter was who he wanted to forget, who now appeared in his mind’s eye with aching clarity. He concentrated again, his screen of consciousness widened. Depressed – he had reasons for it – he had been drinking steadily the night before. He had drifted from bar to bar, then seen no need to stop once he returned to his room. He vaguely remembered the sensation of booze sliding down his throat, the sought-after numbness it radiated. But how had that moment led to this one? Straining once more, he got hold of another image. The last thing he had done was to make his way into the bathroom and settle onto the toilet seat, bottle in hand. Time for one more swig before bed.

Bright sunlight bore down on him, and the room was unaccountably full of cold, moving air… Looking up, he saw an open bathroom window. Had he imagined last night that he was still in Mississippi, where on going to bed he would often open the window a crack, even in winter? Then he recognized the noise he had been hearing for some time now: the hissing sound of a steam pipe, just behind him, his back resting on it. He had passed out in this bathroom. His mind, still whirling, permitted larger oases of lucidity. He realized suddenly that he was in the wrong place: he had no business lying against that pipe. He could tell from its sound how hot it had to be, but his back – which ought to know – had reported no signals of pain. It didn’t even hurt now. How long had he been in this position? When would he find the energy and focus needed to get up again? Like’s Joe Christmas caught in the dietitian’s room in Light in August - lying flat out in his own vomit and realizing that, for better and surely for worse, he was completely in others’ hands – Faulkner waited for someone to come. Eventually someone always did. This was a hell of a way to begin the day.

The moment is emblematic in its self-destructiveness, though its gravity is new. He had been drinking heavily – and occasionally passing out – for over twenty years. But up to now he had been lucky enough to avoid New York hotel steam pipes, as well as other complications linked to a lifetime of boozing. Some time later that morning – minutes? hours? – he heard knocking, at first cautious and then louder…Within a few minutes Jim Devine – Random House fellow writer and boon drinking companion – ha

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13. Faulkner Lectures Go Digital

Did any of you public radio listeners catch the story about Faulkner this morning? Or maybe there is a Faulkner fan out there or alum of the University of Virginia that already knows about this? At any rate, due to the magic of digital technology and the internet, we can now all listen to William Faulkner’s lectures and other public sessions he gave during his 1957 – 1958 writer-in-residence stay at UVA.

The project was spearheaded by Stephen Railton, professor of English at the university and was definitely a labor of love. It is the creation of digital libraries like this that I would so love to be involved with once I am done with school!

Other than some short stories and Light in August read under duress as I was trying to prepare for the subject GRE test back in the day, I’ve not read any Faulkner. I want to. And I want to be a fan. He seems like an author I would like. Should like. Perhaps after I am done with school and my life is my own again I will attempt a Faulkner project.

Anyway, when you click through for the link to the digital lecture collection you will land on the front page of the site. Notice the audio bar towards the bottom of the page. Click on it and you will get to hear Faulkner himself tell you how to pronounce Yoknapatawpha.


Filed under: Books, Library Tagged: William Faulkner

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