Posted in Short Stories

William Faulkner: Golden Land

I think William Faulkner’s “Golden Land” is his nod to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Or maybe he just discovered similar values or lack thereof in Hollywood. Both Faulkner and Fitzgerald dabbled in screenwriting. I don’t know if they were doing it at the same time. That’s probably possible.

In the story, Ira Ewing has come to live in Beverly Hills from Nebraska. His mother has moved near him, also from Nebraska. Ira’s grown daughter seems to be an actress and is involved in some sort of legal problem. Ira is an alcoholic and abusive husband who hates where he lives.

Here’s Ira’s (or Faulkner’s) description of people on the beach:

Lying so, they seemed to him to walk along the rim of the world as though they and their kind alone inhabited it, and he with his forty-eight years were the forgotten last survivor of another race and kind, and they in turn precursors of a new race not yet seen on the earth: of men and women without age, beautiful as gods and goddesses, and with the minds of infants.

Yeah, at least here, Faulkner and Fitzgerald seem to observe the same world and come to some of the same conclusions.

Posted in Short Stories

William Faulkner: My Grandmother Millard and General Bedford Forrest and the Battle of Harrykin Creek

He said they would always lose the first battles, and if they were outnumbered and outweighed enough, it would seem to an outsider that they were going to lose them all. But they would not.

In the table of contents of my copy of William Faulkner’s Collected Stories, this story is simply called “My Grandmother Millard”; however, when you actually get to the story, it’s called by the title I put in the title of this post – a slightly longer title.

Granny Millard’s 12 year-old grandson narrates this story without a name – at least in this story. I’ve read that Granny Millard is also in Faulkner’s novel The Unvanquished so perhaps her grandson has a name there.

The story is set during the American Civil War which is a little unusual in that Faulkner rarely sets his stories smack dab in the middle of the war – they are usually after the war with flashbacks before and during the war and even then, we don’t get tons of actual war detail. Granny and her family practice grabbing the things they want to save (family heirlooms, etc.) and burying them in a trunk in case the Yankees storm their house. Granny times the rest of the family to see how fast they can get everything buried. A clock that is valued to the family sometimes goes in the trunk for these drills and sometimes it doesn’t. I find this somewhat funny in that Faulkner seems to always play around with time in his stories jumping back and forth even within the same paragraphs. In this story he does it in a more literal sense.

As with so much of Faulkner’s writing, we get one person’s point of view via someone else. It kind of gives the reader intimate details and the big picture all at once. Granny, as with many older folks, hangs on to her southern traditions, with the attitude of “why wouldn’t things go on staying the same? or why would anyone want things to be any different?” even as her slaves are helping her save her personal belongings.

With the two intertwined points of view, Faulkner is able to show the humor in the fact that Granny’s traditions are headed into history whether she likes it or not no matter how much she wants to hold on to them.

Posted in Short Stories

William Faulkner: The Brooch

He was not thinking at all. He had just thought once, quietly, So that’s that. So now I suppose I will know, find out what I am going to do and then no more, not even thinking that again.

In William Faulkner’s “The Brooch”, Howard Boyd is torn between his creepy mother and his wife. This isn’t that uncommon among literature but Faulkner puts this conflict into a wonderfully gothic story with an intense buildup to a horror-style ending.

Howard isn’t exactly Norman Bates – his mother remains alive. She makes no bones about hating his wife. While she doesn’t stay in the basement she manages to control everyone from her bedroom. A stroke doesn’t keep her “down”.

The sparse conversations between Howard and his wife, Howard and his mother and even his wife and his mother eerily lead to the story’s final scene.

Faulkner also uses italics in this story (it may not be the first of these stories but I haven’t noticed it as much as in “The Brooch”). In this story, the italics simply allows us to know what Howard is thinking in addition to what he says to the ladies in his life. In his novels, though, Faulkner takes italics to a whole new level.

Posted in Short Stories

William Faulkner: Artist at Home

A poet is human, it seems, just like a man.

Roger’s wife Anne has to deal with all these artist types. Her husband Roger is a novelist but he’s had his work published and is relatively established. It’s these up and coming budding new artists that Roger lets in the house that gets Anne ruffled. This is the overall premise of William Faulkner’s “Artist at Home”.

One such poet comes to stay with them and causes considerable more trouble than usual. And of course he is oblivious to any of the troubled waters he’s churning. Yes, at first glance, he is just like all the other poets and artists to Anne – but then she takes a “second look”.

And Roger isn’t oblivious to this “second look”. He just doesn’t care – that’s different.

Posted in Short Stories

William Faulkner: Pennsylvania Station

Though it spoke human speech it did not sound like a human voice, since it was too big to have emerged from known man and it had a quality at once booming, cold and forlorn, as though it were not interested in nor listening to what it said.

Mississippi doesn’t seem to be anywhere in the picture. This makes “Pennsylvania Station” one of William Faulkner’s more unique stories. It’s set in New York City at Pennsylvania Station as one might guess. An old man waiting for a train tells a younger man a story. Having a story within a story definitely is not unique to Faulkner and I didn’t think about it but we don’t necessarily know where either of these men are headed – Mississippi, perhaps? And the quotation above refers to the train station announcer.

The old man tells the younger one about Sister. Sister is a woman whom one might think is the sister of the older man. However, he doesn’t really talk about her as though she is his sibling. He just calls her “Sister”. And Danny is Sister’s son. The old man doesn’t call Danny “Nephew”. We know Sister is dead early on in the story (both stories) but she has paid 50 cents a week for quite a few years so she could have a nice coffin. Each year of payments gets her an upgrade. The insurance/coffin salesman made sure each year the gold plate with her name on it got moved to the “better” coffin.

Anyway, this was the humorous part and the part I enjoyed the most. Danny plays a role in the story, too, but he wasn’t as funny.

Posted in Short Stories

William Faulkner: Fox Hunt

‘If the Lord didn’t want a man to cut his own grass, why did He put Sunday on Sunday like he did? Tell me that.’

What does the quotation above from William Faulkner’s “Fox Hunt” mean? Your guess is as good as mine. This story contains all kinds of stories from all different kinds of people. I wouldn’t call it a stream of consciousness but a stream of narration. A fox hunt does exist. It’s kind of woven in and out of all these narrations. It’s more in the background.

Ultimately Blair gets his fox – one gets the idea that he’s been chasing this fox off and on over a long period of time. Or maybe its just been today. Blair also “looses” his wife to another man around the same time. Killing a fox and losing his wife. Imagine how they might be connected and you might give some meaning to this story.

The tone and atmosphere and, of course, the words all make up for the strangeness of narration.

Posted in Short Stories

William Faulkner: Dr. Martino

In that gathering of summer dresses, of sucked old breaths and gabbling females staccato, the proprietress stood on the veranda with the second note in her hand.

Of the short stories of William Faulkner that I’ve read so far, “Dr. Martino” is probably the most difficult to understand. Reading it for the words and the tone and maybe even the atmosphere is the most I can recommend.

As with much of Faulkner’s writing, the narration jumps around. It’s all third person but just when I thought I would only get Hubert Jarrod’s point of view, it jumps to Louise King, the love interest of Hubert Jarrod, and Louise’s mother. Louise also has a relationship or friendship with Dr. Martino who for the story’s entirety only appears sitting on a bench. But he apparently has an influence on Louise that her mother doesn’t like.

Anyone with any other insight into this story? Feel free to comment.

Posted in Short Stories

William Faulkner: Honor

Faulkner’s “Honor” is a fun and enjoyable little story with a slightly dark twist. It’s narrated by a soldier that’s been home from World War I and has difficulty holding down a job. The narration has a noir feel to it which actually makes the story that much more fun:

And while I was still drifting around – that was when I first tried selling automobiles – I met Jack, and he told me about a bird that wanted a wing-walker for his barn-storming circus. And that was how I met her.

These barn-storming circus’s show up in Faulkner’s writing from time to time. I’m guessing that they might have been a popular pass-time during the years just after World War I – before television and while movies were just beginning to take off.

I’ll say SPOILERS but this is all part of the plot. The wing-walker has an affair with the pilot’s wife. Yeah, you can see where this might go.

The end of the story lets you know whether what you think is going to happen actually does. I won’t spoil that.

And finally, its toward the end of the story that we find out the wing-walker is none other than, Monaghan, the Irish American soldier in “Ad Astra”.

Posted in Short Stories

William Faulkner: Wash

Yet still the gaunt, furious figure came on against the glare and roar of the flames. With the scythe lifted, it bore down upon them, upon the wild glaring eyes of the horses and the swinging glints of gun barrels, without any cry, any sound.

I don’t know which came first: William Faulkner’s short story “Wash” or his novel Absalom! Absalom!. But both are connected. Wash Jones is Thomas Sutpen’s companion for twenty years. Wash lives in an old rundown cabin on what used to be Sutpen’s plantation. Even though Wash is white, Sutpen treats him the way he treats most of his former slaves.

The “culmination” of Wash Jones and Thomas Sutpen’s relationship is a significant plot point in Absalom! Absalom! but as with much of Faulkner’s writing, it can be tricky figuring out exactly what is going on. He doesn’t spell out everything and in some cases he seems to actually hide things.

The horrific aspects of Sutpen’s relationship with Wash and his granddaughter are a little more straightforward in “Wash”. This story makes things a little clearer as Thomas Sutpen’s world collapses in the aftermath of the American Civil War.

Posted in Short Stories

William Faulkner: All the Dead Pilots

Because they are dead too, who had learned to respect that whose respect in turn their hardness had commanded before there were welded center sections and parachutes and ships that would not spin.

“All the Dead Pilots” might be the final World War I story of William Faulkner’s. It’s the last one in The Wasteland section of his Collected Stories. And in this one there is a Jefferson connection. One of the Sartoris men is in France vying for the affection of the same woman in which Captain Spoomer is interested. In spite of the war setting and the title, the story has some comedic takes – especially as the stray dog roams in and out of the scenes.

This also is another story in which the narrator is nameless, a man with a mechanical leg who censors the mail coming in and out. The mail plays a key role in the telling of the story. We also get to see someone from Faulkner’s Mississippi in a significantly different setting.