William Faulkner & Oxford, Mississippi

I read excerpts and absorbed a lot of his work when I worked at a bookstore in Madison when I read the backs of lots of books and introductions.  But I never completely read any of Faulkner’s books.  We went to Oxford to see Faulkner’s house because Chrissy wanted to go.  After the visit, however, I went and bought “The Portable Faulkner” and I will spend the next couple of weeks completing this part of my incomplete education.  BTW – I learned from the guy at the bookstore (they have a whole Faulkner section) that the portable Faulkner was instrumental in reviving his career, so I picked the right work.

Faulkner was really his own man.  I respect that.  He didn’t graduate HS, although they let him into university anyway after he came back from WWI.  He said that he was largely self-taught and it seems he was.

There was a quotation at his house that I liked.  “…writing is a solitary job – that is, nobody can help you with it, but there is nothing lonely about it. I have always been too busy, too immersed in what I was doing, either mad at it or laughing at it to have time to wonder whether I was lonely or not lonely, its simply solitary. I think there is a difference between loneliness and solitude.”

Not many people visit the Faulkner place and it is not obviously easy to find.  You get to a kind of dirt road and walk.  The house is certainly southern style.  Faulkner disliked air conditioning and never allowed it to be installed.  They have air conditioning now.  It must have been hot w/o it.

Oxford Mississippi is a charming place.  We had lunch at the Ajax Cafe, which is an authentic diner.  We didn’t know it was THE place to go, but we noticed a line.  Following the old Eastern European custom, when you see a line you figure there is something valuable, so we got in line and it was valuable.

But the best part of the square for me was the Square Bookshop.  It is how a bookshop should be, with employees who know and love books, lots of pictures of authors and pleasant understated music.

My pictures show William Faulkner sitting with me on the bench on the square, the books shop, Faulkner’s house “Rowan Oak” and a big oak tree in the woods near the house.  The cedar trees lining the path were planted after the big yellow fever epidemic in 1878.  They thought the trees were healthy.  The big oak is one the big trees in the forest near the Faulkner house.  You can see the big oaks with lots of smaller trees around. It is natural succession at work.  We walked in the woods. It was very nice.  It is hot and humid, with that languid smell and feel of late summer in the South.  I used to dislike it, but I now appreciate it for what it is.  The trees grow well and even ferns on the trees.