Yenra : Quotations : William Faulkner Quotes : Selections from the master

William Faulkner

(1897-1962)

He did not make much of an impression on his mentors when he attended classes as a special student at the University of Mississippi. "Mr. Faulkner, what did Shakespeare have in mind when he put those words in the mouth of Othello?" an English professor once asked him. "How should I know?" he replied. (ALA 65).

1924 quit postmaster at Oxford, Mississippi post office: "As long as I live under the capitalistic system I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp. This, sir, is my resignation." (ALA 66).

He briefly worked in a New York bookstore in 1921. According to his employer: "He was an excellent book salesman, almost insulting customers who picked up what he considered worthless books, and pressing better books upon them with the words, 'Don't read that trash; read this.'" (ALA 66).

To a critic who had written a book analyzing his work Faulkner wrote: "You found implications which I had missed. I wish that I had consciously intended them. I will certainly believe that I did it subconsciously and not by accident." (ALA 67)

"Read, read, read," Faulkner advised a young writer. "Read everything--trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out the window." (ALA 67).

"When he taught a writing class at Chapel Hill in 1931 an elderly woman who had slipped into the class got up and read an involved passage from one of his books. "Now, Mr. Faulkner," she asked on finishing, "what were you thinking of when you wrote that?" "Money," Faulkner replied. (ALA 68).

"I've got to feel the pencil and see the words at the end of the pencil," Faulkner once said, in explaining why he had to write in longhand. Yet his handwriting was so small and illegible that he had to type his work--often 13 hours' worth--at the end of a day. Otherwise, he would not be able to read his own handwriting the next morning. (ALA 69).

The romantic Faulkner lured a young woman out for a night ride by promising her a look at a lovely bride in her wedding dress. Heading deep into the country he parked in an orchard and turned his headlights on an apple tree in full bloom. (ALA 69).

"One of the saddest things," he told an interviewer, "is that the only thing a man can do for eight hours, is work. You can't eat eight hours a day, nor drink for eight hours a day, nor make love for eight hours." (ALA 70).

Hendrickson, Robert. American Literary Anecdotes. New York: Facts On File, 1990.

As I Lay Dying : The Corrected Text - At the heart of this 1930 novel is the Bundren family's bizarre journey to Jefferson to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Faulkner lets each family member--including Addie--and others along the way tell their private responses to Addie's life.

The Sound and the Fury : The Corrected Text - First published in 1929, Faulkner created his "heart's darling," the beautiful and tragic Caddy Compson, whose story Faulkner told through separate monologues by her three brothers--the idiot Benjy, the neurotic suicidal Quentin and the monstrous Jason. Light in August : The Corrected Text - Light in August is the story of Lena Grove's search for the father of her unborn child, and features one of Faulkner's most memorable characters: Joe Christmas, a desperate drifter consumed by his mixed ancestry.

Absalom, Absalom! : The Corrected Text - The story of Thomas Sutpen, an enigmatic stranger who came to Jefferson in the early 1830s to wrest his mansion out of the muddy bottoms of the north Mississippi wilderness. He was a man, Faulkner said, "who wanted sons and the sons destroyed him."