LITERATURE

The Life of William Faulkner: Vol. 1: The Past Is Never Dead 1897–1934

Univ. of Virginia. Mar. 2020. 512p. ISBN 9780813943824. $34.95. LIT
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In a 1956 Paris Review interview, American novelist William Faulkner maintained, “The artist is of no importance. Only what he creates is important.” Some 30 years earlier, in a letter to his mother, he wrote, “What really happens, you know, never makes a good story. You have to get an impulse from somewhere and then embroider it.” Despite Faulkner’s objections to biography, he has not lacked for them, including Joseph Blotner’s two-volume detailed chronicle, Frederick Karl’s psychological study, and Joel Williamson’s portrait of the novelist’s life and times. Rollyson (Baruch Coll.; The Last Days of Sylvia Plath), however, is the first to examine all 105 boxes of material that Faulkner authority Carvel Collins collected for his unwritten account of the author. Tracing Faulkner’s career through roughly the middle of the journey of his life, Rollyson reveals the impulses of Faulkner’s fiction and shows how the author converted his experiences and those of his family and friends into poetry, short stories, and novels. The book also discusses Faulkner’s work for the film industry and its influence on his prose.
VERDICT Rollyson’s astute analysis makes not only for a good story but also a welcome addition to Faulkner studies.

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