William Faulkner (1897-1962)
v William Cuthbert Faulkner was a writer, poet, and essayist, from Oxford, Mississippi.
v He's most famous for his stories in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County in Mississippi, specifically: The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, and Absalom! Absalom!
v These stories focus on characters from the American south: farmers, slaves, outlaws, and southern aristocrats.
v Having met James Joyce, Faulkner also used stream of consciousness in his writing.
v Two of his books, A Fable and The Reivers, won Pulitzer Prizes.
v He also won two National Book Awards for A Fable and Collected Stories.
v He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949. He used part of his award money to start the Faulkner Award for Fiction, to help young writers. He used the rest as a fund to help educate black teachers in America.
v Faulkner recorded his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize, which became famous for the advice he gave to young writers.
v in 1951 France honoured Faulkner as a Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur.
Born into an old, well-off family, Faulkner learned many things early in childhood. His mother taught him to read before starting school, while his father taught him to camp, hunt, and fish. He heard many stories about his great-grandfather, "the old colonel", and he began writing poetry at a young age. His nanny, Callie Barr was also a major influence.
Although William did very well in Elementary school, skipping the 2nd grade, his performance fell in high school, repeating the 11th grade, and never completing high school. He managed to get accepted to the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), where his father worked for a time. William only lasted three semesters, getting a 'D' in English literature. Afterwards, he worked for a short time in a post office, a job he detested.
The best thing that happened to Faulkner in university was meeting the writer Philip Stone, four years his senior, who became Faulkner's mentor and supported him throughout his life. Also, the writer Sherwood Anderson helped Faulkner publish his first books. Faulkner's style was new and this worried publishers, who often rejected him.
Faulkner married in 1929. His wife was an old high school sweetheart whom her parents had forced into a bad marriage. When that ended, William quickly proposed.
Faulkner intended to work full time as a writer. During the Great Depression, he accepted a job writing screenplays in Hollywood, living in California for the next couple decades.
Faulkner is known to have cheated on his wife at least three times. One woman, Joan Williams, wrote a book about her affair, titled The Wintering. Another, Else Jonnson, was widow of the Swedish writer responsible for Faulkner winning his Nobel Prize. He went to accept his prize, and ended up falling for Else.
Faulkner also struggled with alcohol throughout his life. In 1959 he suffered a serious horse-riding accident, leading to a heart attack three years later. His home is now a museum owned by Ole Miss. Faulkner once gave this advice to young writers:
"Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him."