William Faulkner (September 25, 1897 - July 6, 1962) was a novelist from the Southern United States who wrote works of psychological drama and emotional depth, typically with long serpentine prose and high, meticulously-chosen diction. Like most prolific authors, he suffered the envy and scorn of others, and was considered to be the stylistic rival to Ernest Hemingway (his long sentences contrasted to Hemingway's short, 'minimalist' style). He is perhaps also considered to be the only true American Modernist of the 1930s, following in experimental tradition European writers such as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Marcel Proust, and known for using groundbreaking literary devices such as stream of consciousness, multiple narrations or points of view, and time-shifts within narrative.
Faulkner was born William Falkner (no "U") in New Albany, Mississippi, and raised in and heavily influenced by that state, as well as the general ambience of the South. Mississippi marked his sense of humor, his sense of the tragic position of Blacks and Whites, his keen characterization of usual Southern characters and his timeless themes, one of them being that fiercely intelligent people dwelled behind the facade of good old boys and simpletons. An early editor misspelled Falkner's name as "Faulkner", and the author decided to keep the spelling.
Some of his more popular works are As I Lay Dying, The Unvanquished, and The Sound and the Fury. His later masterpieces are considered to be Absalom, Absalom, The Reivers, and Light in August. During the 1930s, in a sheer effort to make money, he crafted a sensationalist "pulp" novel entitled Sanctuary. Its themes of evil and corruption (bearing Southern Gothic tones), resonate to this day. The sequel to the book, "Requiem for a Nun", is the only play that he has published. It involves an introduction that is actually one sentence that spans for a couple pages. He received a Pulitzer Prize for "A Fable", and won a National Book Award (posthumously) for his "Collected Stories". Although it may not be immediately known, he was also an acclaimed writer of mysteries, publishing a collection of crime fiction, Knight's Gambit, that starred Gavin Stevens, an attorney, wise to the ways of folk living in Yoknapatawpha County. He set many of his short stories and novels in his fictional Yoknapatawpha County, based on his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi; Yoknapatawhpa was his very own "postage stamp" and it is considered to be one of the most monumetal fictional creations in the history of literature.
In his later years Faulkner moved to Hollywood to be a screenwriter (producing scripts for Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep and Ernest Hemingway's To Have and Have Not--both directed by Howard Hawks). Faulkner started an affair with a secretary for Hawks, Meta Carpenter.
Faulkner was known rather infamously for his drinking problem as well, and throughout his life was known to be quite an alcoholic.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1949. He drank shortly before he had to sail to Stockholm to receive the distinguished prize. Once there, he delivered one of the greatest speeches any literature recipient had ever given. In it, he remarked "I decline to accept the end of man...Man will not only endure, but prevail..." Both events were fully in character. Faulkner donated his Nobel winnings, "to establish a fund to support and encourage new fiction writers", eventually resulting in the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
Works by date of first publication:
|Table of contents|
2 Short Stories
3 Poetry Collections