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A Short Piece About My Thesis

April 14, 2007   
   If you asked me three months ago to produce a list of things I felt least capable of writing about, you would find WILLIAM FAULKNER written in bold type right at the top.  I was introduced to Faulkner last semester in my senior seminar on narrative and time.  Reading The Sound and the Fury is the literary equivalent of having one’s teeth kicked in.  I was intimidated by rapid time shifts and rambling sentences.  I survived, miraculously, and put Faulkner back on the shelf where I expected him to stay forever. 
    But wouldn’t you know it—the Southerner grew on me, like a fungus.  Professor Kodat suggested that I read Joel Williamson’s biography on Faulkner.  It’s filled with lots of great anecdotes, many of which are even more interesting (all of which are less complicated) than Faulkner’s fiction.  Here’s a favorite story I turned into a poem and read at the last Rhymelab. 

    Once, when Faulkner was at his best and worst,
    and a bird’s-eye view revealed the mountainous Imperial Valley,
    cut through by a winding whiskey wagon piloted by Howard Hawks,
    William Faulkner, and Clark Gable,
    a story was born.

    Gable asked Faulkner who he thought were the best modern writers.

    "Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, Thomas Mann, John Dos Passos, and myself,"
     Faulkner replied.

    "Oh," the actor said after a moment, "do you write Mr. Faulkner?"
    "Yes," Faulkner answered, then asked: "What do you do, Mr. Gable?"

     The poem is a slightly gussied-up version of the passage from Williamson’s book, so I can’t really take credit for anything beyond the first stanza.  But I can take credit for enlivening my own opinion of Faulkner.  I will be the first to admit that struggling through a novel is not my idea of a good time.  When Faulkner’s prose became too difficult to understand, I took the back door and endeavored to understand Faulkner himself.  He was so interesting and emotionally damaged that I had to write about him for my thesis, which explains Faulkner’s first novel (Soldier’s Pay) in the context of his later work.  Thus a thesis was born.  Hopefully it will be finished in about two weeks.