Endure and Prevail

Last week my dad mentioned William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech. I’d read it before, but it feels particularly meaningful now. My favorite part:

“I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.

I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”

Bold/italics are mine. Writers, we’ve got a job to do. Let’s help humanity prevail.

Make sure to click through to see the whole speech; you can even listen to Faulkner read it!

(image: Wikipedia)

Learning from Faulkner

Photo by Ralph Thompson of Faulkner in Rouss Hall [Print# 0218]

You can break everyone into a dog person or a cat person, a chocolate person or a vanilla person, or (like I do) a Hemingway person or a Faulkner person. I’m a Faulkner person through and through.

July 6 marked 50 years since William Faulkner’s passing.One way to mark the occasion is to check out the University of Virginia’s digital archives of Faulkner’s materials and lectures from his time at the University. During one of his classes, Faulkner was asked about Caddy in The Sound and the Fury:

Frederick Gwynn: Is Candace a common name in Mississippi or—?
William Faulkner: No. No, Caddy seemed a nice name for her, and I had to think of something to justify it.

I kind of love that Faulkner just thought it sounded like the right name. Sometimes that happens–a character just comes to you in a certain way and you’re not quite sure why a particular detail rings true, but it does.

Lots of awesome material in there for all you fellow Faulkner fans.

(quotes and image from Faulkner at Virginia, © 2010 Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia; Author Stephen Railton)(via UVA Today)

Reading Faulkner

Love this article on the joys of and struggles with reading Faulkner. The assertion here is that Faulkner is often first encountered as assigned reading in high school or college, which can lead to frustrated readers who assume that Faulkner is all effort. This is certainly not the case:

“We too often see images of Faulkner as the stern silver-maned, sharp-mustachioed aristocrat in the houndstooth jacket, pipe in hand, who now foists his terribly dense prose on precocious students. But he was also a young, artsy, hilarious and unforgiving observer of human nature. The issues and themes that Faulkner treats in his novels and stories are eternal. Like any great writer, he crafted permanent monuments out of elementary materials—the old verities and truths of the heart, if you will—in the same tradition as his predecessors. Strangers come to town in “Light in August” and “Absalom, Absalom!” The Chaucerian journey is made in “As I Lay Dying”. Epic farce is on display in “Snopes”, and family drama gets positively freaky Greeky in “The Sound and the Fury”. The difference is he did it better than most.”

I’m a huge Faulkner fan, so I fully support a closer look at his work. In high school we were assigned “The Bear” (part of Go Down, Moses). I didn’t love it, but I liked the writing enough to check out some other Faulkner. Of course, I ended up getting The Sound and the Fury out of the library and diving right in. I probably missed most of the book, but I loved the language and the glimpses I got of the Compson family. I eventually studied more Faulkner in college/grad school, but I kind of liked having that first major Faulknerian experience be just the book and me. You don’t have to “get” everything the first time to enjoy the experience of being immersed in language and story.

If you’re a Faulkner fan and haven’t read his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, do it now. Or you can listen to Faulkner give his address here.