Rose early. Cool and clear morning. Went running around East Bute Dock (one lap). Reading Thomas à Kempis, Flannery O’Connor (her first published short story, ‘The Geranium’), and the diaries of Thomas Merton (describing his meeting with Zen scholar and practitioner D. T. Suzuki).
“When I was starting to write—in the late fifties, early sixties—there was a kind of social tradition in which male novelists could operate. Hard drinkers, bad livers. Wives, wars, big fish, Africa, Paris, no second acts. A man who wrote novels had a role in the world, and he could play that role and do whatever he wanted behind it. A woman who wrote novels had no particular role. Women who wrote novels were quite often perceived as invalids. Carson McCullers, Jane Bowles. Flannery O’Connor, of course. Novels by women tended to be described, even by their publishers, as sensitive. I’m not sure this is so true anymore, but it certainly was at the time, and I didn’t much like it. I dealt with it the same way I deal with everything. I just tended my own garden, didn’t pay much attention, behaved—I suppose—deviously. I mean I didn’t actually let too many people know what I was doing.”
— Joan Didion, The Art of Fiction No.71, The Paris Review
Blue sky. The air is calm and cool. Early signs of autumn. Went cycling along the Cardiff Bay barrage and feel better for the effort. Just thirty minutes of exercise resonates for the entire day. After breakfast Jennifer and I headed to our shared office at Cardiff University; we have just over a week remaining on our contracts, so are gradually moving our few belongings back to our apartment. Since we do not own a car, we do it in piecemeal fashion, a few objects at a time.
On my bedside table is the first volume of the collected novels of William Faulkner, published by The Library of America. Since giving away over two thirds of my book collection, I decided that I would keep only those volumes of lasting value and durability. Since Faulkner has been of interest to me for a long time, I thought I would begin at the beginning and work my way steadily through his entire works. (I have similar plans for Flannery O’Connor, but I will write about that some other day.) One of the benefits of the LOA editions is that they are printed to last a lifetime, and each book includes several novels. I have recently begun Soldiers’ Pay, an energetic debut novel with a clear debt to Joyce, and aim to proceed through Mosquitoes (a satire of 1920s bohemia), Flags in the Dust (a novel that originally appeared in a heavily edited edition under the title Sartoris in 1929), and, wait for it, The Sound and the Fury, which crowns the first volume.
William Faulkner’s Novels 1926-1929 is available from The Library of America.
A rare audio recording from 1959, courtesy of Open Culture.