Every now and then, I read another portion of this fascinating study of two vastly different 20th century American authors. Both were gifted; both hit the bottle too much; both needed some moral reclaimation, but both penned some great books. Had they literally had a fight, assuming they used fists and not shotguns, Hemingway would have easily won. But when it comes to telling an essential story, writing in an epic fashion, creating a fictional world, Faulkner leaves Hemingway looking like the great fish at the end of The Old Man and the Sea.
William Faulkner, speaking of Ernest Hemingway, said, ‘He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.’ And Hemingway said of Faulkner, ‘Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?’
Poor Faulkner, indeed. He wrote circles around Hemingway.
Richard Marius was a southerner, from Tennessee, who was teaching writing at Harvard when he was drafted into teaching a course on Faulkner. This book grew out of his introductory lectures on Faulkner’s first thirteen novels. I lament never having had a course on Faulkner. In fact, I am not sure I ever had a class where any Faulkner story or novel was assigned. I am thankful for the encouragement of my college freshman English teacher, Sharon Drake, who did encourage me to do my research paper on The Sound and the Fury.