10 Things You Might Not Know About William Faulkner

1. William Faulkner (1897–1962) was reportedly inspired to become a writer by his great-grandfather, Colonel William Falkner (1825–1889), who, aside from being a soldier, lawyer, and politician also authored some novels, poems, a travelogue, and a play. As a child, Faulkner is thought to have said, “I want to be a writer like my great-granddaddy.”

2. Faulkner’s name was originally spelled “Falkner.” He added the “u” to make his name sound British and even affected an English accent. It was all a ploy to join the Royal Air Force in Canada during World War I because, at only 5’5”, he was too short to join the U.S. Army Air Corps.

3. Even though Faulkner never flew in combat during the war, he told everyone that he had. He walked around his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi in his uniform, with fake wings he bought in New York, and a limp that he claimed was caused by a wartime injury.

4. Before he became famous, Faulkner supported himself as the University of Mississippi postmaster but was fired for reading on the job; shortly afterwards he dropped out of college. Years later he wrote: “What an amazing gift I had: uneducated in every formal sense, without even very literate, let alone literary, companions, yet to have made the things I made.”

5. Faulkner based his fictional Yoknapatawpha County, the setting for most of his novels and short stories, on his real home in Lafayette County, Mississippi.

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6. While trying to publish The Sound and the Fury (1929), Faulkner suggested using colored ink to differentiate time periods in Benjy’s section, instead of indicating a shift in time with italics. He was told by his publisher, however, that no techniques existed to do so at the time.

7. Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949 but didn’t actually receive it until the following year. The delay was caused by the Nobel committee’s inability to decide in time who to choose from all the notable candidates, including Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus, and John Steinbeck, among others. (The three writers eventually did win the Prize, in 1954, 1957 and 1962 respectively).

8. While in Hollywood, where several of his books were turned into movies, Faulkner met Clark Gable. When asked to name the greatest writers of the time, Faulkner listed Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, Thomas Mann, John Dos Passos, and himself. Gable turned to him and asked, “Oh, do you write?” “Yes, Mr. Gable,” Faulkner responded. “And what do you do?”

9. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy invited some Nobel Prize winners to dinner at the White House. Though invited, Faulkner, who was in Richmond, Virginia at the time, didn’t make the trip. The reason he gave for snubbing the President’s invitation? “Sixty miles is a very long distance to go for a meal.”

10. Faulkner’s favorite TV show was “Car 54, Where Are You?” He reportedly would visit a friend’s house every Saturday night to watch the comedy.


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