William Faulkner was a terrible postman • Friends and fellow authors pay tribute to Newark native Philip Roth • 5 new biographies about Mary Shelley • Friedrich Nietzsche’s descent into madness • 48 Years In the Making, Orson Welles’s Last Film Is Finally Released • 58 Jazz Giants in Art Kane‘s One Immortal Image • Patti Smith on Little Women • How to write the perfect sentence Storyboard for Tarkovsky‘s Andrei Rublev • Haruki Murakami Introduces The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories  Twenty Questions with Esi Edugyan The 50 Biggest Books of Autumn 2018

“Freedom comes with the decision: it does not wait for the act. She felt freer, more at peace with herself than she had felt in months. But I wont think about that, she decided deliberately. It is best just to be free, not even to know you are free, not to let it into the conscious mind. To be consciously anything argues a comparison, a bond with antithesis. Live in your dream, do not attain it, else comes satiety—or sorrow. Which is worse, I wonder?”

—William Faulkner, Soldiers’ Pay

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.

Currently reading

William Faulkner, Novels 1926-1929 (Library of America)
William Faulkner, Novels 1926-1929 (The Library of America)

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.

Other reading

  • Frida Kahlo‘s personal letter to Georgia O’Keeffe
  • Praising David Cronenberg’s adaptation of William S. Burroughs‘ Naked Lunch on its 25th anniversary
  • Asymptote publishes excerpts from Walking with Robert Walser

Write for pleasure

“Keep it amateur. You’re not writing for money but for pleasure. It should be fun. And it should be exciting. Maybe not as you write, but after it’s done you should feel an excitement, a passion. That doesn’t mean feeling proud, sitting there gloating over what you’ve done. It means you know you’ve done your best. Next time it’s going to be better.”

Get a job

“Don’t make writing your work. Get another job so you’ll have money to buy the things you want in life. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you don’t count on money and a deadline for your writing. You’ll be able to find plenty of time for writing, no matter how much time your job takes. I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t find enough time to write what he [sic.] wanted.”

William Faulkner at his writing desk
William Faulkner at his writing desk

Don’t be ‘a writer’

“Don’t be ‘a writer’ but instead be writing. Being ‘a writer’ means being stagnant. The act of writing shows movement, activity, life. When you stop moving, you’re dead. It’s never too soon to start writing, as soon as you learn to read.”

In order to write, read…

“That’s the best way to learn how to write, from reading. Study what other people have written. Watch how they’re writing about people, not facts or ideas.”

Source: William Faulkner, ‘Advice to a Young Writer’, Daily Princetonian, 19 March 1958

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Early handwritten manuscript for William Faulkner 'A Rose for Emily'
Early handwritten manuscript for William Faulkner ‘A Rose for Emily’

Rain. I walk to work every day, so adverse weather conditions require no small degree of ingenuity. Angling my umbrella towards the wind, I found a dry route through the city’s main shopping centre. As I neared the main building, I happened to chat briefly with several former students, and my former boss.

I see that the University of Virginia is hosting an exhibition celebrating the life and work of American writer William Faulkner. The website offers a wonderful glimpse of the materials on display, including photographs, garments, and an early handwritten manuscript of ‘A Rose for Emily’. Visitors to the exhibition will also be able to explore ‘Digital Yoknapatawpha’, an interactive virtual tour of Faulkner’s fictional Mississippi county. The exhibition runs until 7 July.

Reading Thomas Merton‘s The Seven Storey Mountain. Having left Cambridge University under somewhat mysterious circumstances, Merton is now studying literature at Columbia in the US. His grandfather, ‘Pop’, has died suddenly. Merton writes: ‘In the last year or two we had drawn rather close together. He often got me to come to lunch with him downtown and there he would tell me all his troubles, and talk over the prospects of my future’.

 

Flavorwire have compiled a list of the ’30 harshest author-on-author insults in history’. Here are just a few…

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Toni Morrison’s 1955 Master’s thesis was entitled, ‘Virginia Woolf’s and William Faulkner’s treatment of the alienated’. [Source]

From an article by Birger Vanwesenbeeck (Los Angeles Review of Books) on Gustave Flaubert [Source]

Two photographers take a look around the iconic literary journal
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Photograph: Paul Barbera

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Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy
From a 1992 interview with Richard B. Woodward (The New York Times)

“You know about Mojave rattlesnakes?” Cormac McCarthy asks. The question has come up over lunch in Mesilla, N.M., because the hermitic author, who may be the best unknown novelist in America, wants to steer conversation away from himself, and he seems to think that a story about a recent trip he took near the Texas-Mexico border will offer some camouflage. A writer who renders the brutal actions of men in excruciating detail, seldom applying the anesthetic of psychology, McCarthy would much rather orate than confide. And he is the sort of silver-tongued raconteur who relishes peculiar sidetracks; he leans over his plate and fairly croons the particulars in his soft Tennessee accent. (more…)

Why read a ‘difficult’ book?
Emily Temple (Flavorwire) has compiled a list of ’50 Incredibly Tough Books for Extreme Readers’. Their toughness varies from the sheer bulk of the volume (eg. Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Stein’s The Making of Americans), to their stylistic virtuosity (Finnegans Wake, anyone?). But despite their daunting reputations, there can be something special about reading a ‘difficult’ book.

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