ISSUE DATE: Jan. 23, 1939
ALSO APPEARED: July 17, 1964
Central figure in any investigation of Southern literary life is William Faulkner. This short, reticent Southerner, sharp-eyed as a gambler, lives about as close to the heart of the South as it is possible to get—in Oxford, Miss., a county seat of 2,890 people, 62 miles southeast of Memphis. Historically speaking, nothing much has happened to Oxford since the Yankees burned it 75 years ago. It has a courthouse square, which Mississippi-born Artist John McCrady painted in Town Square (see cut). It has its Confederate monument on which a soldier stands stonily at ease. It has its old families and old legends, its tireless political disputes, its pleasant wooden dwellings, nice lawns, and some of the softest Southern accents in the South. It has new pavements and filling stations painted in tropical colors, new bright-fronted chain stores which are outward evidence of recent community change.
For most of his 41 years William Faulkner has observed the life that revolves around Oxford’s courthouse square. For twelve years he has packed his observation into a series of bitter, imaginative, extraordinarily powerful but extremely uneven books. For the last nine years he has been successful, regarded by critics as the most talented but least predictable Southern writer, by his fellow townsmen as an enigma, by himself as a social historian, who hopes that by recording the minute changes in Oxford’s life he can suggest the changes that are transforming the whole South.
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