by John Sledge
It was a gorgeous fall afternoon. The air was crisp and clean, the sky a brilliant blue and the Chinese Tallow trees ablaze with red and yellow. I was working along my back fence, clearing away the dry tangle of privet, kudzu and thorn that had run riot all summer. With broad strokes of the sling blade I hacked away at the dense mass, sending twigs and broken bits of vine flying. The westering sun shot golden beams through the debris-filled air, and there was no sound but the crash of the blade. My barn jacket felt good in the chill, and my dog sat nearby, waiting for me to finish. At that moment it struck me--I must read some Faulkner.
authors suit certain moods, and this was clearly a Faulkner moment.
My choices were limited, however.
I have only two Faulkner volumes in my personal library, a
collection of short stories and a Library of America edition featuring
his four later novels;
When Faulkner asked his publishers for an advance to write this book, he told them that it was to be a "blood and thunder mystery novel" that would deal forthrightly with the issue of race. Its underlying theme was to be, he wrote, the "relationship between Negro and White…the premise being that the white people in the South, before the North or the govt. or anyone else, owe and must pay a responsibility to the Negro." Faulkner wrote the novel in just over a month, and revised it in three.
were mixed, but widespread, and
critical opinion on
There are also a number of memorable passages, none more famous than the Gettysburg fantasy. As Faulkner wrote, "For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two oclock on the July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet…."