Becoming Faulkner: The Art and Life of William Faulkner
Read an excerpt below:
None of these chapters scrupulously respects chronological order (although my narrative does advance—erratically—in time). Instead each chapter, entering the life at a moment of sudden or cumulative stress, stays with the dynamics and fallout of that stress in ways no biography committed to progressing responsibly from 1897 to 1962 can afford to do. In this sense, I seek to “compose Faulkner,” rearranging the materials of his life and art so as to seize on latent patterns within a larger troubled weave. I “compose” him in another sense as well. I pretend now and then to “become Faulkner,” to narrate—as subjective experience not seen past or later diagnosed—some of his moment-by-moment dilemmas. In these vignettes I seek less to recuperate the life into meaning than to articulate it as process, to fashion—and pass on to my reader—something resembling its turbulent texture. Although the biographical data buttressing these simulations are well established, such sequences involve—of course—invention on my part. I am not so naïve as to believe that I could actually “become Faulkner”! My aim is heuristic: to simulate (at crucial instances) the precious life-reality that escapes all biographies—what it might have felt like to be Faulkner, in present time and cascading trouble. Invention, then, not for its own sake, but to put flesh on the primary bones of my argument: that unmanageable trouble in time emerges as the fault line joining Faulkner’s discretely disturbed life with his inexhaustibly disturbing novels.