Faulkner's Unquiet Grave

…because there was no death, not Lion and not Sam: not held fast in earth but free in earth and not in earth but of earth, myriad yet undiffused of every myriad part, leaf and twig and particle, air and sun and rain and dew and night, acorn oak and leaf and acorn again, dark and dawn and dark and dawn again in their immutable progression and, being myriad, one…. (from William Faulkner’s “The Bear”)

 

I am stricken by the realization that Faulkner is really gone. And I am deep in memory, as if summoned there by a trumpet blast. Dilsey and Benjy and Luster and all the Compsons, Hightower and Byron Bunch and Flem Snopes and the gentle Laura Grove—all of these people and a score of others come swarming back comically and villainously and tragically in my mind with a kind of mnemonic sense of utter reality, along with the tumultuous landscape and the fierce and tender weather, and the whole maddened, miraculous vision of life wrested, as all art is wrested, out of nothingness. (William Styron)



July 6, 1962: William Faulkner died on this day in 1962. Styron attended the small funeral, one of the few non-family members invited, and several weeks later he published a tribute entitled “As He Lay Dead, A Bitter Grief” in Life magazine. This would not have pleased the Faulkner family, certainly not Faulkner himself. The press and the tourists had been invading Oxford, Mississippi for years, and Faulkner’s mother had found two gossipy, prying articles in Life so repugnant that she had cancelled her subscription. When complaining of the magazine articles in a letter to a friend, Faulkner widened the target:

There seems to be in this the same spirit which permits strangers to drive into my yard and pick up books and pipes I left in the chair where I have been sitting, as souvenirs. What a commentary. Sweden gave me the Nobel Prize. France gave me the Legion d’Honneur. All my native land did for me was to invade my privacy over my protest and my plea. No wonder people in the rest of the world don’t like us, since we seem to have neither taste nor courtesy, and know and believe in nothing but money and it doesn’t matter how you get it.

 

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