The Authors William Faulkner Consistently Returned to

William Faulkner Literary Author

faulknerAnd there you have it. The great books never tire, wear out or bore one. Their lessons and horizons are infinite.


Unidentified participant: Sir, when you are reading for your own pleasure, which authors do you consistently return to?

William Faulkner: The ones I came to love when I was eighteen, nineteen, twenty years old. Moby-Dick, the Old Testament, Shakespeare, a lot of Conrad, Dickens. I read Don Quixote every year.


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About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger. Follow me on Twitter @LangstaffEditor
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7 Responses to The Authors William Faulkner Consistently Returned to

  1. lahowlett says:

    I worked with a woman years ago (another librarian) who was from Mississippi. Her father had been friends with William Faulkner. Apparently, the stories about him being a real ‘character’ were true. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • All serious authors are “characters.” And I’ve personally known and interviewed a big bunch of them (much published in mags and papers like LA Times etc.). “Normal” conventional folks don’t write great books. Can’t say why, but they don’t. They usually aren’t the easiest ppl to get along with either 😉


  2. If you have the time, read the Paris Review interview with Faulkner (click on “original”). Classic


  3. jef says:

    The Old Testament! No wonder the poor man drank. The Book of Numbers alone compels several tumblers full of gin in surface-tension testing quantities. I’m not deeply read in Faulkner but have enjoyed my couple of college trials on re-reading them as a grown-up. I always liked what Tom McGuane said about WF. In this Paris Review interview the talk had turned to TM’s screenplay dabbling and what he thought that had brought to his writing, if anything. His opinion of Faulkner’s bloviating is interesting, and I think WF got away with a lot of gaseous typing because he was clearly and literally brilliant as a writer and explicator, to his depths. But Faulkner’s own experiences with screenwriting (wildly portrayed in the Coen Bros. loud and middling film ‘Barton Fink’ ) do not seem to have aroused the editor in him. Here’s what McGuane said – and, full disclosure, I so venerate Thomas McGuane that one of my son’s two middle names is … McGuane! Sorry for the long comment, Margaret, but a few of your posts touch a delighted nerve…

    “(screenwriting has) made me rethink the role of a lot of the mnemonic things that most novelists leave in their books. The worst about these things is probably Faulkner, who frequently had his shit detector dialed down to zero. We all read Faulkner in a similar way; we move through these muddy bogs until we hit these wonderful streaks, and then we’re back in the bogs again, right? Everyone agrees that Faulkner produced the greatest streaks in American literature from 1929 until 1935 but, depending on how you feel about this, you either admit that there’s a lot of dead air in his works or you don’t. After you’ve written screenplays for a while, you’re not as willing to leave these warm-ups in there, those pencil sharpenings and refillings of the whiskey glasses and those sorts of trivialities. You’re more conscious of dead time. Playwrights are even tougher on themselves in this regard. Twenty mediocre pages hardly hurt even a short novel but ten dead minutes will insure that a play won’t get out of New Haven. Movies are like that: people just can’t sit there, elbow-to-elbow with each other and stand ten boring minutes in a movie.”


    • Read the Paris Review interview of him. He had no time for “ideas,” said he’d failed to say what it was he wanted to say in his books, makes no excuses and can’t even remember some of his characters and short stories. He was driven, almost blindly, to get down what was tearing him up. Makes no apologies. I adore him, his authenticity and honesty. He was not a book architect (structurally), wasn’t his thing; he was after a truth about what it felt like to be human with all of our inherent frailties and inner contradictions. Read his Nobel acceptance speech.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. PPS Everyone in the Deep South in WF’s day was brought up on the bible, a cultural thing. Great stories in it and a convenient metaphorical “short-hand.”


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