Talk:William Faulkner

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This is the talk page for discussing improvements to the William Faulkner page.


Miscellaneous Discussion[edit]

Man will not merely endure; he will prevail... because he has a soul. A spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. Absalom, Absalom! (1936)

Im pretty sure this is from "a fable" not absalom absalom...though there may be very similiar prose in the two works im not sure...if it is what his nobel speech was based off...it's definately "a fable" —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 72.15.68.97 (talkcontribs) 02:46, 1 June 2006 (UTC)

Unsourced, moved from quote page to talk page[edit]

Unsourced, moved from quote page to talk page. Cirt (talk) 11:55, 19 February 2009 (UTC)

Unsourced[edit]

  • A mule will labor ten years willingly and patiently for you, for the privilege of kicking you once.

That's from The Reivers

  • A writer is congenitally unable to tell the truth and that is why we call what he writes fiction.
  • A writer must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid.
  • A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.

This quote is from an interview in The Paris Review of 1956 - William Faulkner, The Art of Fiction No. 12. Interview by Jean Stein. Here is the link:http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4954/the-art-of-fiction-no-12-william-faulkner --Zibiza (talk) 14:47, 16 November 2012 (UTC)

  • Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.
  • Facts and truth really don't have much to do with each other.
  • Hollywood is a place where a man can get stabbed in the back while climbing a ladder.
  • I love Virginians because Virginians are all snobs and I like snobs. A snob has to spend so much time being a snob that he has little time left to meddle with you.
  • I never know what I think about something until I read what I've written on it.
  • If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate: The "Ode on a Grecian Urn" is worth any number of old ladies.

This quote is from an interview in The Paris Review of 1956 - William Faulkner, The Art of Fiction No. 12. Interview by Jean Stein. Here is the link:http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4954/the-art-of-fiction-no-12-william-faulkner --Zibiza (talk) 14:39, 16 November 2012 (UTC)

  • I’m trying to say it all in one sentence, between one cap and one period.
  • Landlord of a bordello! The company’s good and the mornings are quiet, which is the best time to write.
    • On the ideal job
  • Man performs and engenders so much more than he can or should have to bear. That's how he finds that he can bear anything.
  • People need trouble— a little frustration to sharpen the spirit on, toughen it. Artists do; I don't mean you need to live in a rat hole or gutter, but you have to learn fortitude, endurance. Only vegetables are happy.
  • Perhaps they were right in putting love into books... it could not live anywhere else.
    • Etched into a University desk and attributed to William Faulkner
  • Read, read, read. Read everything— trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out the window.
  • The end of wisdom is to dream high enough to lose the dream in the seeking of it.
  • The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.
  • The salvation of the world is in man's suffering.
  • This is a free country. Folks have a right to send me letters, and I have a right not to read them.
  • To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or color is like living in Alaska and being against snow.
  • To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi.
  • Civilization began with distillation.
  • Kill your darlings.

image dispute relating to quote from Beyond (1933)[edit]

Who is he who will affirm that there must be a web of flesh and bone to hold the shape of love?
Who is he who will affirm that there must be a web of flesh and bone to hold the shape of love?

Anon IP 66.122.185.230 (talk · contributions) has several times replaced the top image with the lower one. While it has some aesthetic and intellectual significance it seems to me to be a FAR poorer match to the quote than the previously existing one which evokes the form of a human hand amidst the nebulous gases excited by the energies of a pulsar, and I believing it a far poorer substitute have reverted these edits. ~ Kalki (talk · contributions) 01:21, 9 May 2011 (UTC) The lower image seems in some way to be anonymously affirming what Faulkner seems to present a doubt upon — the upper image is one I believe to be much more atuned to to addressing the theme of his statement in evocative ways. ~ Kalki (talk · contributions) 01:23, 9 May 2011 (UTC)

Response from Anon (Don't know how I'm supposed to Format this). Faulkner was a cynic, he believed man an animal and, whereas you may think dead space better represents the quote than a picture of the human mind, I think it misses the point. I will reread Beyond and get back to you. "Until on the Day when He says Rise only the flat-iron would come floating up." - Faulkner, TSATF


Faulkner was CERTAINLY a skeptic about MANY obvious and oblivious assertions and assumptions of faith — AS AM I — but to declare him a cynic in the modern sense or even in many aspects of the ancient sense of the word is to go a bit astray, I believe. Though some of his characters certainly declared some cynical statements, a person cannot be declared a cynic merely because he fairly and honestly presents cynical perspectives. I hold Faulkner to be a skeptical but worldly-wise optimist overall, as these quotes evidence:

I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong 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.
The poets are wrong of course. … But then poets are almost always wrong about facts. That's because they are not really interested in facts: only in truth: which is why the truth they speak is so true that even those who hate poets by simple and natural instinct are exalted and terrified by it.
Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. An artist is a creature driven by demons. He don’t know why they choose him and he’s usually too busy to wonder why. He is completely amoral in that he will rob, borrow, beg, or steal from anybody and everybody to get the work done.
No one is without Christianity, if we agree on what we mean by that word. It is every individual’s individual code of behavior by means of which he makes himself a better human being than his nature wants to be, if he followed his nature only. Whatever its symbol — cross or crescent or whatever — that symbol is man’s reminder of his duty inside the human race. Its various allegories are the charts against which he measures himself and learns to know what he is. It cannot teach a man to be good as the textbook teaches him mathematics. It shows him how to discover himself, evolve for himself a moral codes and standard within his capacities and aspirations, by giving him a matchless example of suffering and sacrifice and the promise of hope.

I assert that such inspirational statements are composed by a wise person who sees beyond naive cynicism as well as naive optimism. ~ Kalki (talk · contributions) 01:55, 9 May 2011 (UTC)


Response from Anon - > The Nobel Prize Speech? Are you serious? He was pulling their leg, mocking their ritual. There isn't a word of Faulkner's fiction that affirms the goodness of man. His irony in the speech is that he never once affirmed honor or sacrifice or courage in any of his fiction. He stood there and wrote a bit of propaganda and handed it to the masses, saying tongue in cheek it was his duty as an author to do so. Even in the same era he won the Nobel, he also mocked Andrew Jackson in the Appendix he penned to "The Sound and the Fury:"

"JACKSON. A Great White Father with a sword. (An old duellist, a brawling lean fierce mangy durable imperishable old lion who set the wellbeing of the nation above the White House and the health of his new political party above either and above them all set not his wife's honor but the principle that honor must be defended whether it was or not because defended it was whether or not.) Who patented sealed and countersigned the grant with his own hand in his gold tepee in Wassi Town, not knowing about the oil either: so that one day the homeless descendants of the dispossessed would ride supine with drink and splendidly comatose above the dusty allotted harborage of their bones in specially built scarletpainted hearses and fire-engines."

Faulkner knew Christianity, but for him to assert it as a moral guide is like our perception of homeless people who write "God Bless You" on their cardboard sides. You know inside they curse and blaspheme him with every thought, in every breath, in every moment in private they get. I think his daughter found Faulkner drunk in the Woods when it came time to board the plane to receive the Nobel? No, as the quote from Quentin Compson elucidates, Faulkner believed man was stricken from the world and sentience when the body was destroyed.


Your statements seem to me very pathetic in many ways, and I truly sorrow at your state of confusion. I believe greatness of soul is found in those most able to see it in others — NOT in those most prone to deny it — and those most wise see it clearly even in those whose faiths and doubts differ most greatly from their own, as well as those whose faiths and doubts are most similar to theirs.
No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own littleness than disbelief in great men. ~ Thomas Carlyle
I am well acquainted with many forms of declared and undeclared faiths — and have seen the stupidity behind many forms of apparent wisdom and wisdom behind many forms of apparent stupidity. Yet, paradoxically, I have found that among the most profoundly stupid of authoritarian absolutists are those who declare themselves nihilists and who seem to expect that negations of all values they can't find appealing might appeal strongly to others as irrational as themselves — and this, unfortunately, can often be true. I see beyond rational and irrational arguments in many ways — always have, and I hope always will — and I won't be tied down by nitwitted labels created by nitwitted minds — especially those of ANY presumptive authoritarians — and especially those who declare themselves nihilists.
Your latest changing of the image were accompanied with the VERY misleading statement implying or perhaps even assuming that Faulkner was : "the atheist whom the mere sight of a church spire on the sky could enrage" — when in fact this is a statement of a character in a vision of an afterlife asserting:
We never thought, sitting in my office on those afternoons, discussing Voltaire and Ingersoll, that we would ever be brought to this, did we? You, the atheist whom the mere sight of a church spire on the sky could enrage; and I who have never been able to divorce myself from reason enough even to accept your pleasant and labor-saving theory of nihilism.
Though I respect MANY aspects of MANY faiths and beliefs, I am certainly NOT a dogmatist or dedicated apologist of ANY traditional creed or labelled traditional faith — including the faiths of many atheists and agnostics in the excellence or supremacy of their own reason, but can join with James Joyce in asserting:
Though I seem to be driven out of my country as a misbeliever I have found no man yet with a faith like mine.
I can also join with a hero of his, Ingersoll, and myself, Giordano Bruno, in asserting:
Divinity reveals herself in all things... everything has Divinity latent within itself.
I do NOT deny divinity and divine worth exists even in a doubter's doubt or an atheists denial of many forms of faith — for I also observe and assert that there is a far more fundamental faith and form of assumption underlying even these doubts and denials, and those who perceive that most clearly are least led astray by human delusions and words by which they often confuse themselves far more than they enlighten themselves. ~ Kalki (talk · contributions) 02:55, 9 May 2011 (UTC)

Reply from Anon -> James Joyce was a blasphemer to the n'th degree, to catagorize him as an endorser of faith is to have not read his works which are works of an Apostate. The Obscenity trials in the United States were likely spurned on in motivation more by the dreadful mockery of the deity than the sensuality of the work. Any faith Joyce may have had is probably best summed up by Lynch in Circe, "pornosophical philotheology."

Regardless, there's one big hint that Faulkner was playing with the heads of everyone at his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, it's four tiny little words forming a pun that is easy to miss: "I Decline to Accept." Furthermore, if you cut out the "props" from his speech, it says: "I Decline to Accept. ... I refuse to Accept this... The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props." He said his voice is a stage tool, when a poet primarily writes. Don't think that Faulkner was not careful with words, the man was a master craftsman. The passage on Quentin III in the Appendix of The Sound and the Fury, when reduced to subject, verb, and direct object states only: "Quentin III loved death." What makes you so sure he didn't do the same to his Nobel Prize speech? Do you think he missed the irony of stating twice in a Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech: "I Decline to accept ... I refuse to accept?"

Besides, Faulkner had long affirmed the flesh as the carrier of man prior to Beyond: "That's sad too people cannot do anything that dreadful they cannot do anything very dreadful at all they cannot even remember tomorrow what seemed dreadful today and I said, You can shirk all things and he said, Ah can you. And I will look down and see my murmuring bones and the deep water like wind, like a roof of wind, and after a long time they cannot distinguish even bones upon the lonely and inviolate sand. Until on the Day when He says Rise only the flat-iron would come floating up. It's not when you realise that nothing can help you--religion, pride, anything--it's when you realise that you dont need any aid." - The Sound and the Fury

The irony in the quote in question ("Who is he that will affirm...") is that it is a cruel decision to crush the soul that believes in immortality, it is also a sympathetic plight for the atheist in the story, almost asking for a savior to tell him that he is not crazy for believing that the mind is the carrier of sentience, thought and emotion, and not the soul. I would say you have misread the quote, Faulkner may be using this quote to ask for an affirmation that man is animal, corporeal, flesh and blood and emotion. Maybe he is saying: "Isn't it true that love is built of flesh and bone?"

You also miss the irony that they are ghosts wandering around Earth, as Quentin becomes in that one short story the name of which escapes me after he is dead. This theology is not in accordance with Christian Theology. They are not in heaven, they are not in hell, they are on earth, touring, still wondering if there is a deity.


You seem somewhat inclined to embrace a very mistaken notion that I am perhaps simply a dedicated Christian apologist. I am perhaps at times that, in many ways, and at times an apologist for MANY other rival traditions, including some aspects of many forms of atheism and far less popular forms of belief and disbelief. I am a VERY ironic skeptic — and the levels of irony I am aware of and often engaged in would likely strain your capacities to discern, let alone appreciate. I had sought to avoid confronting the limitations of many people to appreciate many aspects of paradoxical truths, as they often cling to strongly dubious or absurd assertions about what they presume to be "facts" in many ways which have led them to create beliefs in "facts" so absurd even I had lacked the imagination to clearly anticipate them. I have often called myself an Agnostic Gnostic, or Gnostic Agnostic in regard to many things, and I am aware of MANY levels of irony, and though ALL things perhaps have some affect on all others, I must assert that your interpretations of things seem far too narrow and shallow to have much profound influence or destructive effect upon many of mine. I often must laugh at the follies of many who presume their particular faiths or doubts are close to the pinacle of wisdom — for I have usually perceived many aspects of many things far more broadly and intricately than most, and in ways often far beyond what most have perceived — yet continually KNOW my paltry personal awareness is but miniscule compared to much that I have little choice but to have great faith in — which is something I have long recognized to be beyond all expressions of creeds of faith and trust or doubts and denials. It is referred to sincerely or doubtfully by many names and terms, such as God, and is also known of as the Nameless — and as Ultimate Reality or Ultimate Necessity — and through it I can OFTEN appreciate far more than most people as yet have, that ALL things are necessary, including the ignorance and confusion of mortal minds — and MOST especially, Forgiveness by those aware of many forms of Eternal Truth. ~ Kalki (talk · contributions) 04:44, 9 May 2011 (UTC)

Reply from Anon -> I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about whether a picture of dead space better fits a picture about love, flesh and bone than a PET Scan. Faulkner wrote to Southern Christianity, so I talk about his religion in his relationship to that fact. I looked at your page of totems. I am unconcerned with what you believe as you seem to believe in splashing every symbol ever invented along with quotes onto a page. That may suit you as much as you like. I never took you for a Christian Apologist when I looked at your page. I took Faulkner for an antithesis to Christian Religion as employed in the South. I changed a picture on a page because the picture had nothing whatsoever to do with the quote, not even slightly. I don't care to influence your opinion one way or another. I only wanted to swap that picture.


As you might have observed, I have retained the image you added, and added quotes to the section so as to replace the image which EVOKES many forms of faith or hope that might be considered to have either rational or irrational foundations. Either way, such exist, and many of the most irrational of beliefs NECESSARILY exist among "rationalists" and many forms of reason DO guide many of those who seem most irrational. ALL of us have many aspects of discernment NOT immediately or directly acessible to the minds of others. I will probably attempt to address more of the issues which you have raised elsewhere, in coming weeks. ~ Kalki (talk · contributions) 05:13, 9 May 2011 (UTC)

Reply from Anon -> You are trying to twist Faulkner into something you believe to suit your needs. I put a picture that goes evidently with the quote. Who says this "Judge" character represents Faulkner's view any more than the Atheist character or Quentin Compson or any other character? You forget the quote from Beyond...

"You will not believe it, but for the last fifteen years my one intellectual companion has been a rabid atheist, almost an illiterate, who not only scorns all logic and science, but who has a distinct body odor as well. Sometimes I have thought, sitting with him in my office on a summer afternoon a damp one that if a restoration of faith could remove his prejudice against bathing, I should be justified in going to that length"

Maybe this is as much what Faulkner was trying to communicate about the nature of the "afterlife" as anything else. Nothing you will state will remove the drunk, nihilistic, modernist from Faulkner's work, it was what he was. He was not a spiritualist, and hardly an optimist. You claim my interpretation is narrow, yet I put but a picture of a brain on a quote about love, flesh and bone, and you decided that, under no circumstances, could the obvious be elucidated beside this quote.

—This unsigned comment is by 66.122.185.230 (talkcontribs) .

Among the final assertions of the story is the statement:
Who is he who will affirm that there must be a web of flesh and bone to hold the shape of love?
This is a COMPLEXLY ironic statement on MANY levels, and with MANY forms of ambiguity or apparent certitude — some of them more apparent to those inclined to forms of belief and others more apprarent to those inclined to forms of agnosticism or atheism. I welcome MANY forms of thought — and NO form of assumption of what MUST be believed or disbelieved about it. I have several prominent appreciations of its worth, and you might have several others. I bid you explore them, and perhaps seek out others. I do NOT presume to know what is BEST for you to believe, nor anyone else — but I DO seek to help many become more familiar with what many find good and many find bad, and to be more appreciative that there CAN BE and ARE, MANY forms of valid and invalid and personally or socially beneficial or detrimental perspecives on many things. ~ Kalki (talk · contributions) 05:29, 9 May 2011 (UTC)

I never asserted that it meant one thing. I only posted the most obvious reference to the quote pictorially. I have no society, so I care little for that which is detrimental to it. Remember the judge also says people use proof to justify their lusts even as he pulls a picture of his dead child to show the atheist. The judge is slightly obsessed about his lost child, brings him up more than once, he even pulls from his coat a picture to prove his son existed. One must also distinguish between the kind of proof a judge seeks and the kind of proof a scientist seeks when analyzing the character here, as they are two different kinds. The judge clears the brush from his sons grave and searches for proof that he will see his son again, thus pursuing his own lust and obsession with that which is dead and gone. It is a macabre story, but a story the same. I don't think a picture of a brain will drive anyone too mad who stumbles upon that quote, though, I have spent a good deal of time reading neuroanatomy and neurochemistry, and that will drive one mad.

—This unsigned comment is by 66.122.185.230 (talkcontribs) .

Like many good stories, the story by Faulkner is a complex one with many possible interpretations, about many aspects of it. I hope you come to appreciate many aspects of the story that might not be immediately apparent to you. I believe that both promoters of many forms of faith and many forms of doubt, as well as many forms of proper skepticism which can rationally balance many evident aspects of things can find many things to admire in it. ~ Kalki (talk · contributions) 07:07, 9 May 2011 (UTC)

The proof in a court room is almost inevitably fallacious, just as the judge said. It is because of how he looks at proof. A scientist can repeat any claim, a judge must look at what he is presented by the prosecution and defense. The moment in time he tries to understand is as lost and foreign as his dead child. Anyway, enjoy.

Also, I'm changing the picture for "proof" quote, since it is a judge talking about it, it is doubtful scientific evidence is the reference. Since the story ends with "Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury..." The word "proof" is likely not used in a scientific sense. I think the picture I put on will more adequately evoke the kind of image Faulkner is aiming at here. The Judge specifically says here, "I, of all men, know that proof..." implying that there is something special about him that enlightens him to the nature of "proof." Since he is not Newton, or Einstein, or Tesla, or Edison, or Gauss, or Maxwell, he's probably talking about judicial proof, which is why he would be in a position to understand the nature of it.