Faulkner’s Ending Years

In April 1946, The Portable Faulkner was published, resulting in a popular and critical interest in Faulkner’s work, including many reprinted novels. Faulkner attended question-and-answer sessions with English classes at the University of Mississippi the next year. In January 1948, Faulkner ceased work on A Fable and began writing a detective story.  Later that year, MGM purchased film rights for Intruder in the Dust, which was shot in Oxford, Mississippi which included the townspeople in extra and minor roles. The film premiered at the Lyric Theatre in Oxford in October 1949. Also that year, in November, Faulkner published Knight’s Gambit, a collection of detective stories including “Tomorrow,” and “Smoke.”

Faulkner’s sudden greatness rewarded him with the 1949 Nobel Prize for literature. With the Noble Prize, Faulkner was becoming more famous but, he resisted and wanted privacy. Faulkner refused numerous interview requests, and even turned down an invitation to eat at the White House claiming that “it was too far to go just to eat with strangers.”  Even after all his fame, Faulkner was still struggling for money. The summer of 1949, Faulkner met Joan Williams, who wanted to be a writer. The two wrote letters back and forth, and in January of 1950 Faulkner took a bus to her college in Memphis. Eventually, the two began writing a play, Requiem for a Nun.  In June 1950 Faulkner received the Howells Medal for distinguished work in American fiction. In August of the same year, he published Collected Stories, the last of three collections, which was awarded the National Book Award.

Faulkner and Estelle took their daughter to Pine Manor Junior College in Wellesley, Massachusetts in 1951. In September 1951, Faulkner’s collaboration with Williams, Requiem for a Nun, was published, but never produced because of financial problems.  Faulkner was also suffering from riding injuries, and he began relying heavily on alcohol. Faulkner went to treatment for alcoholism but when he returned, Williams left him. Faulkner’s editor, Saxe Commins, convinced Faulkner to go to Princeton, New Jersey in November of 1952. Williams visited him here, but he was still falling from alcohol. Faulkner underwent six electroshock therapy sessions at New York’s Westhill Sanitarium.

In March 1954, Jill wrote to Faulkner asking him to come home for her wedding. She married Paul Dilwyn Summers Jr., a first lieutenant in the Army.  In August of the same year, after ten years of work, Faulkner finally published A Fable, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. During the mid 1950’s Faulkner began to travel to literary conferences across the world, usually with Jean Stein, his newest relationship.  In 1955 Faulkner began writing again; he also became involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

Faulkner and Estelle were getting along, despite his affair with Jean. They were both in Charlottesville, Virginia in April 1956 when Jill gave birth to their first grandchild, Paul D. Summers III. The following year Faulkner agreed to stay in Charlottesville as a writer-in-residence at the University of Virginia. Faulkner enjoyed his work but not the students’ attempts to overanalyze every element of his plots. One student asked whether Jewell in As I Lay Dying purchased the horse as a substitute for his mother and Faulkner replied “Well, now that’s something for the psychologist. He bought the horse because he wanted that horse.”

In May 1957 Faulkner published The Town, the second volume of the “Snopes” trilogy. Faulkner’s second grandson, William, was born in December 1958. The Faulkner’s then bought a house in Charlottesville in 1959 and traveled between there and Oxford. The next year, Faulkner’s mother, a talented painter, died at the age of 88.

In 1961, Faulkner was elected the Balch Lecturer in American Literature at the University of Virginia. With Faulkner’s life finally calming down he began to write again. The Reivers, a Scottish word for robbers, was dedicated to Faulkner’s grandchildren, “Victoria, Mark, Paul, William, Burks,” by his two step-children and biological daughter. This would be his last novel.

Faulkner and Estelle bought a beautiful estate outside of Charlottesville, where Faulkner would spend most of his time riding and drinking. This became bad when Faulkner began falling from his horses, severely injuring himself. He then began drinking even more to alleviate the pain, which took him into the hospital once more for detoxification. Faulkner’s constant alcohol abuse and injuries resulted in his death on July 6, 1962–the Old Colonel’s birthday—from a heart attack. William Faulkner was buried the next day at St. Peter’s Cemetery in Oxford.

Published on May 4, 2009 at 10:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://amlit255.wordpress.com/about/faulkners-life/faulkners-ending-years/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: