Tuesday, 6 July 2010

On this day...

American author William Faulkner died in 1962, at the age of 64. Born and raised in Mississippi, the state, and its Southern racial history, heavily influenced his later writings. However, literature was not his first port of call when beginning his career, and indeed it was the army that first attracted his attention. Yet even in an era beset by so many conflicts, Faulkner was rejected for his height, being only 5'5½", and instead joined the British Royal Flying Corps, though he did not see any action in World War One. It was on such a military theme that Faulkner wrote his first novel, 'Soldiers' Pay' in 1926 - the house that in which it was written, 624 Pirate Alley, being now the premises of Faulkner House Books.

Over the next few years, Faulkner produced a steady stream of works, including 'The Sound and the Fury', 'As I Lay Dying' and 'Absalom, Absalom!', and yet his big break conceivably came after all these had been published. In the early 1940s, at the invitation of Howard Hawks, Faulkner journeyed to Hollywood in search of money, and contributed to both Raymond Chandler's 'The Big Sleep' and Ernest Hemingway's 'To Have and Have Not' among others. Although his personal life remained volatile, including numerous extramarital affairs and a heavy drinking problem, Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1949, for 'his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel'.

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