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Wikipedia Summary for William Faulkner

William Cuthbert Faulkner (September 25, 1897 – July 6, 1962) was an American writer known for his novels and short stories set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, based on Lafayette County, Mississippi, where Faulkner spent most of his life. Faulkner is one of the most celebrated writers of American literature, and is widely considered one of the best writers of Southern literature.

Born in New Albany, Mississippi, Faulkner's family moved to Oxford, Mississippi when he was a young child. With the outbreak of World War I, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force but he did not serve in combat. Returning to Oxford, he attended the University of Mississippi for three semesters before dropping out. He then moved to New Orleans, where he wrote his first novel Soldiers' Pay (1925). Returning to Oxford, he wrote Sartoris (1927), his first work which is set in Yoknapatawpha County. In 1929, he published The Sound and the Fury. The following year, he wrote As I Lay Dying. Seeking greater economic success, he went to Hollywood to work as a screenwriter.

Faulkner's renown reached its peak upon the publication of Malcolm Cowley's The Portable Faulkner and his 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the only Mississippi-born Nobel laureate. Two of his works, A Fable (1954) and his last novel The Reivers (1962), won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His economic success allowed him to purchase an estate in Oxford, Rowan Oak. Faulkner died from a heart attack on July 6, 1962 related to a fall from his horse the prior month.

In 1998, the Modern Library ranked his 1929 novel The Sound and the Fury sixth on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century; also on the list were As I Lay Dying (1930) and Light in August (1932). Absalom, Absalom! (1936) appears on similar lists.

Longer Version:

The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. Since man is mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind him that is immortal since it will always move. This is the artist's way of scribbling "Kilroy was here" on the wall of the final and irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.


The writer has three sources: imagination, observation, and experience.

--William Faulkner

Clocks slay time. Time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.

--William Faulkner

People need trouble -- a little frustration to sharpen the spirit on, toughen it.

--William Faulkner

Longer Version:

People need trouble -- a little frustration to sharpen the spirit on, toughen it. Artists do; I don't mean you need to live in a rat hole or gutter, but you have to learn fortitude, endurance. Only vegetables are happy.


At first glance the tree seemed alive with frantic squirrels. There appeared to be forty or fifty of them leaping and darting from branch to branch until the whole tree had become one green maelstrom of mad leaves.

--William Faulkner

Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: It must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.

--William Faulkner

Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.

--William Faulkner

Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.

--William Faulkner

Time is a fluid condition which has no existence except in the momentary avatars of individual people. There is no such thing as was -- only is.

--William Faulkner

Time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.

--William Faulkner

A man is the sum of his misfortunes.

--William Faulkner

Longer Version:

A man is the sum of his misfortunes. One day you'd think misfortune would get tired, but then time is your misfortune.


One day you'd think misfortune would get tired but then time is your misfortune.

--William Faulkner

Any live man is better than any dead man but no live or dead man is very much better than any other live or dead man.

--William Faulkner

There is no such thing as memory: the brain recalls just what the muscles grope for: no more, no less: and its resultant sum is usually incorrect and false and worthy only of the name of dream.

--William Faulkner

Memory believes before knowing remembers.

--William Faulkner

Longer Version:

Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.


All the old accumulated rubbish-years which we call memory.

--William Faulkner

Love in the young requires as little of hope as of desire to feed upon.

--William Faulkner

I don't know anything about inspiration because I don't know what inspiration is; I've heard about it, but I never saw it.

--William Faulkner

Your illusions are a part of you like your bones and flesh and memory.

--William Faulkner

A man never gets anywhere if facts and his ledgers don't square.

--William Faulkner

A Democrat is a barefooted Liberal in a cross-country race; a Conservative is a Republican who has learned to read and write.

--William Faulkner

A fellow running from or toward a gun ain't got time to worry whether the word for what he is doing is courage or cowardice.

--William Faulkner

That unpaced corridor which I called childhood, which was not living but rather some projection of the lightless womb itself.

--William Faulkner

What makes a fool is an inability to take even his own good advice.

--William Faulkner

There remains yet something of honor and pride, of life.

--William Faulkner

Again. Sadder than was. Again. Saddest of all. Again.

--William Faulkner

That's the one trouble with this country: everything, weather, all, hangs on too long. Like our rivers, our land: opaque, slow, violent; shaping and creating the life of man in its implacable and brooding image.

--William Faulkner

Only fools imply compliments. The wise man comes right out with it, point-blank. Imply criticism -- unless the criticized isn't within earshot.

--William Faulkner

And so sometimes I would think how the devil had conquered God.

--William Faulkner

And when a man that old takes up money-hunting, it's like when he takes up gambling or whisky or women. He aint going to have time to quit.

--William Faulkner

Success is feminine and like a woman, if you cringe before her, she will override you.

--William Faulkner

The artists who want to be writers, read the reviews; the artists who want to write, don't.

--William Faulkner

To the man grown the long crowded mile of his boyhood becomes less than the throw of a stone.

--William Faulkner

Like a fellow running from or toward a gun ain't got time to worry whether the word for what he is doing is courage or cowardice.

--William Faulkner

The air thin and eager like this, with something in it sad and nostalgic and familiar.

--William Faulkner

I believe man will not merely endure, he will prevail...because he has a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.

--William Faulkner

War is an episode, a crisis, a fever the purpose of which is to rid the body of fever. So the purpose of a war is to end the war.

--William Faulkner

And I reckon them that are good must suffer for it the same as them that are bad.

--William Faulkner

Listen: it's got to be all honeymoon, always.
Either heaven, or hell:
no comfortable safe peaceful purgatory between
for you and me to wait in until good behavior or forbearance
or shame or repentance overtakes us.

--William Faulkner

Pouring out liquor is like burning books.

--William Faulkner

There is that might-have-been which is the single rock we cling to above the maelstrom of unbearable reality.

--William Faulkner

The most important thing is insight, that is to be -- curious -- to wonder, to mull, and to muse why it is that man does what he does.

--William Faulkner

It's like it ain't so much what a fellow does, but it's the way the majority of folks is looking at him when he does it.

--William Faulkner

As he strode on, moving almost as fast as a smaller man could have trotted, his body breasting the air her body had vacated,
his eyes touching the objects--post and tree and field and house and hill--her eyes had lost.

--William Faulkner

Pointless... Like giving caviar to an elephant.

--William Faulkner

Poor man. Poor mankind.

--William Faulkner

The displacement of water is equal to the something of something.

--William Faulkner

Purity is a negative state and therefore contrary to nature.

--William Faulkner

It is the writer's privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart.

--William Faulkner

Life is a process of preparing to be dead for a long time.

--William Faulkner

Like any good optimist, I don't expect the worst to happen. Only, like any optimist worth his salt, I like to go and look as soon as possible afterward jest in case it did.

--William Faulkner

He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.

--William Faulkner

Longer Version:

He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."
(on Ernest Hemingway.


Necessity has a way of obliterating from our conduct various delicate scruples regarding honor and pride.

--William Faulkner

You can't beat women anyhow and that if you are wise or dislike trouble and uproar you don't even try to.

--William Faulkner

Meet Mrs. Bundren.

--William Faulkner

Only the peak feels so sound and stable that the beginning of the falling is hidden for a little while.

--William Faulkner

Learn us all the refinement and education that there's a better use for the mouth than running private opinions through it.

--William Faulkner

The Swiss are not a people so much as a neat, clean, quite solvent business.

--William Faulkner

If all the businesses in town are run like country businesses, You are going to have a country town.

--William Faulkner

But then, in the eyes all of them look like they had no age and knew everything in the world, anyhow.

--William Faulkner

Try to be better than yourself.

--William Faulkner

He remembered his uncle saying once how little vocabulary man really needed to get comfortably and even efficiently through his life, how not only in the individual but within his whole type and race and kind a few simple cliches served his few simple passions and needs and lusts.

--William Faulkner

People to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too.

--William Faulkner

A writer is congenitally unable to tell the truth and that is why we call what he writes fiction.

--William Faulkner

People will pay any price for motion. They will even work for it. Look at bicycles.

--William Faulkner

Every man has a different idea of what's beautiful, and it's best to take the gesture, the shadow of the branch, and let the mind create the tree.

--William Faulkner

Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, security, happiness, all, to get the book written.

--William Faulkner

No man can cause more grief than that one clinging blindly to the vices of his ancestors.

--William Faulkner

It was as though, so long as the deceit ran along quiet and monotonous, all of us let ourselves be deceived, abetting it unawares or maybe through cowardice, since all people are cowards and naturally prefer any kind of treachery because it has a bland outside.

--William Faulkner

The writer doesn't need economic freedom. All he needs is a pencil and some paper.

--William Faulkner

A writer is trying to create believable people in credible moving situations in the most moving way he can.

--William Faulkner

I guess maybe a talking man hasn't got the time to ever learn much about anything except words.

--William Faulkner

When folks wants a fellow, it's best to wait till they sends for him, I've found.

--William Faulkner

The listening part is afraid that there may not be time to say it. Dewey Dell -- As I Lay Dying.

--William Faulkner

I am not religious, I reckon. But peace is in my heart: I know it is.

--William Faulkner

Victory without God is mockery and delusion, but...defeat with God is not defeat.

--William Faulkner

Caddy put her arms around me, and her shining veil, and I couldn't smell trees anymore and I began to cry.

--William Faulkner

To me, all human behavior is unpredictable and, considering man's frailty... and... the ramshackle universe he functions in, it's... all irrational.

--William Faulkner

People ... have tried to evoke God or devil to justify them in what their glands insisted upon.

--William Faulkner

All of us labor in webs spun long before we were born.

--William Faulkner

The poets are almost always wrong about the facts... That's because they are not really interested in facts: only in truth.

--William Faulkner

It's terrible to be young. It's terrible. Terrible.

--William Faulkner

In Europe, being an artist is a form of behavior. In America, it's an excuse for a form of behavior.

--William Faulkner

Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error.

--William Faulkner

Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique.

--William Faulkner

Longer Version:

Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him.


It is a happy faculty of the mind to slough that which conscience refuses to assimilate.

--William Faulkner

Surely heaven must have something of the color and shape of whatever village or hill or cottage of which the believer says, This is my own.

--William Faulkner

It is not proof that I sought. I, of all men, know that proof is but a fallacy invented by man to justify to himself and his fellows his own crass lust and folly.

--William Faulkner

Whatever its symbol -- cross or crescent or whatever -- that symbol is man's reminder of his duty inside the human race.

--William Faulkner

I knew that nobody but a luckless man could ever need a doctor in the face of a cyclone.

--William Faulkner

And I will look down and see my murmuring bones and the deep water like wind, like a roof of wind, and after a long time they cannot distinguish even bones upon the lonely and inviolate sand.

--William Faulkner

Dear God, let me be damned a little longer, a little while.

--William Faulkner

Amid the pointing and the horror, the clean flame.

--William Faulkner

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