Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Man Behind the Madness?

Recently, a connection between a plantation diary and William Faulkner has been discovered. The diary was written by Francis Terry Leak, a plantation owner, and discusses his relationship with Faulkner.

Not sure if this gives us a ton of insight into As I Lay Dying, but some scholars are calling it a tremendous discovery.

One scholar from the NY Times article felt that:

“I think it’s one of the most sensational literary discoveries of recent decades,” said John Lowe, an English professor at Louisiana State University who is writing a book on Faulkner.

A couple questions that this article brought to mind...well maybe not directly from the article, but questions that I was pondering nonetheless.

-Would you ever consider devoting most of your time and life to researching a particular author? If so, which one?

-Both F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner had issues with alcohol. They also seemed to have run out of money at some point in their lives. After getting low on funds, both authors decided to venture into Hollywood and write screenplays (because these paid well). Would you consider this selling out, like an Indie artist who goes mainstream (say Kings of Leon)? Or, is this completely acceptable?


  1. I'm not sure if there are that many authors out there that you could study for a lifetime (maybe Shakespeare and Byron because they're such classics) but no one else really comes to mind.

    And I always thought there were different ways of "selling out". Selling out out of necessity and doing it reclusively, without chasing for public attention, seems fine to me.

  2. depends how prolific they are!

  3. I actually think that this particular story can be closely tied to As I Lay Dying, at least to the extent that it weaves another narrative layer into the larger story about Faulkner--and his work. Think, my dear students, composites.

    Re: selling out, Fitzgerald was largely broke when he turned to Hollywood. I'll confess to not knowing too much about Faulkner's biography, so I won't venture any guesses there. I think one way to think about this has to do with patronage--namely that writers don't generally make that much, so using Hollywood, for instance, to bankroll their writing might be different than your average punk rocker turned American Idol hopeful. I dunno, though. Keep discussing. Also, read Michael Berube's post on selling out for further info. He even works in Ishmael Reed, who we'll be reading in a few weeks, in there.