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Faulkner in Popular Culture

Though the mules plod in a steady and unflagging hypnosis, the vehicle does not seem to progress. It seems to hang suspended in the middle distance forever and forever, so infinitesimal is its progress, like a shabby bead upon the mild red string of road.

The Pop Culture Faulkner (and then some) ...

Tom Russell Band, 'The Road to Bayamon' Music

Singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffet, a fellow writer and Mississippian, dedicated his song "If I Could Just Get It on Paper" to Faulkner, who is also mentioned in the song.

Country music singer Tom Russell refers to one of Faulkner’s occasional jobs on his Road to Bayamon album in the song "William Faulkner in Hollywood." (The same album also features a reference to fellow Southern writer Flannery O'Connor.) The lyrics:

Mr. Faulkner stepped from off the train

It was May of '32

He had a stylish tweed coat upon his back

He'd come out to Hollywood

To see what he could do

To get those southern loan sharks off his track

They took him to the movie lot

And they locked him in a room

"Let's see the golden script fall from your hands"

He fled down to Death Valley

With a strange smile on his face

They found him drunk wandering cross the desert sands



Well he longed for Mississippi and a back porch in the rain

Sipping bourbon and staring through the trees

But the silver screen and the money dreams

Have taken old Bill away

and California brought him to his knees


So if you're out tonight 'neath your movie lights

Of a California sky

Remember William Faulkner and his pain

He served it up to pay the rent

But could not deny the price

Now he stumbles drunk through the Mississippi rain



"Maybe It Was Memphis," written by Michael Anderson and recorded by country music star Pam Tillis, makes reference to two acclaimed Mississippi writers, both of whom wrote about distinctive characters like the man for whom the singer of the song falls. You can listen to a snippet of it here (requires RealPlayer). The relevant lyrics:

Read about you in a Faulkner novel, met you once in a Williams play
Heard about you in a country love song, summer night beauty took my breath away
What was I s'posed to do, standing there looking at you
Lonely boy far from home

Maybe it was Memphis, maybe it was southern summer nights
Maybe it was you, maybe it was me, but it sure felt right :

Writers and Writing

There must be something about the air there. At least two former curators of Faulkner’s home in Oxford are now acclaimed novelists themselves. Howard Bahr, curator from 1982 to 1993, has two novels of the Civil War, The Black Flower (1997) and most recently, The Year of Jubilo (2000). Bahr's successor, Cynthia Shearer, has likewise published a critically acclaimed novel, The Wonder Book of the Air (1996). You can read a review of it here.

At the excellent online magazine, you can read an article about "Mississippi Churning," or the meeting of highbrow and lowbrow in Oxford, Mississippi, as embodied in the figures of William Faulkner and John Grisham, both of whom have called Oxford home.

Faulkner House in New Orleans, where Faulkner lived in 1925 and wrote his first novel, has a web site that features some interesting information about Faulkner’s time in New Orleans as well as current information for visitors. Today the site is a bookstore and home of the Double Dealer Redux, a modern-day rendering of the famous literary magazine in which Faulkner, like many of his contemporary writers, got their start. The site also features information about the Pirates Alley Faulkner Society, the William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition (for high school students), and "Words and Music: A Literary Feast in New Orleans," a conference scheduled September 21-25, 2000.

The Modern Library made headlines -- no doubt, by design -- when in July 1998 it released its "100 Best Novels" published since 1900. Faulkner made the list three times -- for The Sound and the Fury (# 6), As I Lay Dying (#35), and Light in August (#54). He was the only Southern author to appear more than once, and one of only seven Southerners even to make the list (the others were Carson McCullers, Robert Penn Warren, James Dickey, Walker Percy, Erskine Caldwell and William Styron). Given that the Modern Library is a division of Random House (Faulkner’s primary publisher during his lifetime as well as today, through both the Modern Library editions and the Vintage paperbacks), it is perhaps not surprising that Faulkner was given such prominence; other commentators have noted the weight given to books published by the Modern Library in its list.


It turns out, President Bill Clinton is a Faulkner fan, or at least has memorized Benjy's monologue from The Sound and the Fury, according to an article by Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez in   ... has a number of Faulkner quotations online   ...   New York University School of Medicine's "Medical Humanities database" features an entry on Faulkner and a brief article on his novel As I Lay Dying, presumably for the novel's "lesson in mankind's ability to survive most anything, and then 'get on with living'"   ...   Faulkner isn't directly mentioned, but his apocryphal county is the setting for this online murder investigation by the "Yoknapatawpha County Law Enforcement Division"   ...   William Faulkner was on the bus — the Majic Bus, that is, an educator's journey to teach students about their American heritage   ...   The Catfish Institute awarded the Taylor Grocery & Restaurant (otherwise known as "Taylor Catfish House") a winner for 1997 for its catfish. According to this web page, the restaurant is mentioned in Sanctuary, though I'm not so sure. (Certainly the town is mentioned, but the restaurant?)  ...  You can read an FBI File on Faulkner at "," but don't expect too many salacious details: it details an investigation following a possible extortion attempt in 1957.

This page was last modified on Monday, October 09, 2000 at 11:56 AM -0500

Copyright © 1995-2001 by John B. Padgett

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