New Orleans Sketches by William Faulkner

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Synopsis

In 1925 William Faulkner began his professional writing career in earnest while living in the French Quarter of New Orleans. He had published a volume of poetry (The Marble Faun), had written a few book reviews, and had contributed sketches to the University of Mississippi student newspaper. He had served a stint in the Royal Canadian Air Corps and while working in a New Haven bookstore had become acquainted with the wife of the writer Sherwood Anderson.

In his first six months in New Orleans, where the Andersons were living, Faulkner made his initial foray into serious fiction writing. Here in one volume are the pieces he wrote while in the French Quarter. These were published locally in the Times-Picayune and in the Double Dealer, a "little magazine" based in New Orleans.

New Orleans Sketches broadcasts seeds that would take root in later works. In their themes and motifs these sketches and stories foreshadow the intense personal vision and style that would characterize Faulkner's mature fiction. As his sketches take on parallels with Christian liturgy and as they portray such characters as an idiot boy similar to Benjy Compson, they reveal evidence of his early literary sophistication.

In praise of New Orleans Sketches Alfred Kazin wrote in the New York Times Book Review that "the interesting thing for us now, who can see in this book the outline of the writer Faulkner was to become, is that before he had published his first novel he had already determined certain main themes in his work."

In his trail-blazing introduction Carvel Collins, often called "Faulkner's best-informed critic," illuminates the period when the sketches were written as the time that Faulkner was making the transition from poet to novelist.

"For the reader of Faulkner," Paul Engle wrote in the Chicago Tribune, "the book is indispensable. Its brilliant introduction . . . is full both of helpful information . . . and of fine insights." "We gain something more than a glimpse of the mind of a young genius asserting his power against a partially indifferent environment," states the Book Exchange (London). "The long introduction . . . must rank as a major literary contribution to our knowledge of an outstanding writer: perhaps the greatest of our times."

Carvel Collins (1912-1990), one of the foremost authorities on Faulkner's life and works, served on the faculties of Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Swarthmore College, and the University of Notre Dame, where he was the first to teach a course devoted to Faulkner's writing.

 

About William Faulkner

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Born in an old Mississippi family, William Faulkner made his home in Oxford, seat of the University of Mississippi. After the fifth grade he went to school only off and on-lived, read, and wrote much as he pleased. In 1918, refusing to enlist with the "Yankees," he joined the Canadian Air Force, and was transferred to the British Royal Air Force. After the war he studied a little at the University, did house painting, worked as a night superintendent at a power plant, went to New Orleans and became a friend of Sherwood Anderson, then to Europe and back home to Oxford. By this time he had written two novels. The Sound and the Fury followed in 1929. Financial success came with Sanctuary in 1931, which he assisted in filming. Faulkner 's novels are intense in their character portrayals of disintegrating Southern aristocrats, poor whites, and African Americans. A complex stream-of-consciousness rhetoric often involves Faulkner in lengthy sentences of anguished power. Most of his tales are set in the mythical Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, and are characterized by the use of many recurring characters from families of different social levels spanning more than a century. His best subjects are the old, dying South and the newer materialistic South. As I Lay Dying (1930), is a grotesquely tragicomic story about a family of poor southern whites. With Absalom, Absalom! (1936); the difficult parts of his famous short novel "The Bear" (published in Go Down, Moses, 1942); and the allegorical A Fable (1954), a non-Yoknapatawpha novel set in France during World War I; Faulkner returned to an innovative and difficult style that most readers have trouble with. Yet, interspersed among such works are collections of easily read stories originally published in popular magazines. There seems to be a growing sentiment among critics that the Snopes trilogy-The Hamlet (1940), The Town (1957), and The Mansion (1959)-for the most part an example of Faulkner's "moderate" style, could well be among his most important works. Faulkner was awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize for literature "for his powerful and artistically independent contribution to the new American novel," but it would appear now that he also deserved to win that honor for his contribution to world literature. When reporting his death, the Boston Globe quoted Faulkner's having once told an interviewer: "Since man is mortal, the only immortality for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. That is the artist's way of scribbling "Kilroy was here" on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must some day pass." In addition to the Nobel Prize, Faulkner received the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1950, and in 1951 he was given the National Book Award for his Collected Stories Collected Stories. For his novel A Fable he received the National Book Award for the second time, as well as the Pulitzer Prize in 1955. The Reivers (1962) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1963. In 1957 and 1958, he was the University of Virginia's first writer-in-residence, and in January 1959 he accepted an appointment as consultant on contemporary literature to the Alderman Library of that university. Although Faulkner was not without honors in his lifetime and has received world recognition since then, it is surprising to learn that, when Malcolm Cowley edited The Portable Faulkner in 1946, he found that almost all of Faulkner's books were out of print. By arranging selections from the works to form a continuous chronicle, Cowley deserves much of the credit for making readers aware of the way in which Faulkner was creating a fictive world on a scale grander than that of any novelist since Balzac. William Faulkner died in Oxford, Mississippi, in 1962. Collins is one of the foremost authorities on Faulkner's life and works, Served on the faculties of Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Swarthmore College, and the University of Notre Dame, where he was the first to teach a course devoted to Faulkner's writing.
 
Published May 22, 2002 by University Press of Mississippi. 139 pages
Genres: Arts & Photography, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Faulkner sweepings, sketches and stories from his New Orleans writings circa 1925, this collection was first published by Rutgers University Press in 1958 and has new material in the autobiographical introduction and an additional essay on Sherwood Anderson.

Sep 15 2011 | Read Full Review of New Orleans Sketches

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Michael Manley 18 Aug 2013

Rated the book as 4 out of 5

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