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The Collected Stories of William Faulkner

by William Faulkner


Original Publisher: Random House
Current Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Harold Augenbraum writes:

Faulkner is no longer known for his short stories, except perhaps for “The Bear,” which appeared both as a stand-alone and as part of Go Down, Moses, but the collection for which he won the National Book Award is really a stunning achievement, and as unsettling as they come. The stories are what you would expect of Faulkner: dark, ironic, sometimes comical, racially charged, and a constant threat of violence (or the violence itself), and there’s 42 of them here, but I’ll just choose a few of my favorites. In “A Bear Hunt,” a man with chronic hiccups gets his comeuppance from blacks, whites and Indians. Gets rid of his hiccups ‘though. In “Two Soldiers,” a nine-year-old boy, while looking for his recently enlisted brother Pete, just after Pearl Harbor, pulls a knife on an unsuspecting army recruiter, and actually cuts him before an officer intervenes. The story’s sequel, “Shall Not Perish,” in which the family hears of Pete’s death, is more of a cliché. The story “Victory” starts off well, about the rise and fall of a working-man from England who rises in the First World War and falls thereafter. Perhaps in the thirties its irony was interesting, but we’ve seen it too many times since then (and it makes me think that Faulkner really was better when on his home turf: see my blog post about A Fable, which won the National Book Award in 1955). “The Brooch” is very cool: the center is a struggle between a stroked and bedridden mother and her wild daughter-in-law. But when the husband commits suicide, I found the despair too pat. The final scene of “A Rose for Emily” may be pat, as well, and not entirely unexpected, but the little detail—Faulkner’s style, to my mind, is much more interesting than his plots—of the little depression in a pillow, and the fact the narrator notices it, is wonderful. In the end, Faulkner’s often oblique style—not a lot of detailed description—“things” are just there, and their “thingness” is appropriate—is the great value here. As you finish reading each story, you realize that action did indeed take place, but more talked about than described, an aggregate of dim lights inside the painted lines of a glowing darkness.


Harold Augenbraum is Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, an editor and translator.

ISBN: 9780679764038

Fiction Finalists that Year: Not announced

Fiction Judges that Year:
Maxwell Geismar, Granville Hicks, Charles Rolo, Willard Thorp, Eudora Welty

The Year in Literature:  

  • The Town by Conrad Richter won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
  • Pär Lagerkvist won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Other Information:

  • William Faulkner was born William Cuthbert Falkner. It is unconfirmed how the “u” was added to the spelling of his surname. One story says that in 1926, a careless typesetter made a mistake on the title page of Faulkner's first book, Soldier's Pay, and the author decided to live with it. Another says that Faulkner himself made the change in 1918 upon joining the Air Force.

  • The Book of National Book Awards Apocrypha says that when told he had won the National Book Award in Fiction for 1951, just 15 months after receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature, William Faulkner said, “I could have written a cookbook this year and they would have given me the National Book Award.”

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Reader Comments (1)

William Faulkner's inimitable voice, a voice which unmasked injustice, greed, human concupiscence, but also wisdom, profound compassion, and country savvy, provides the most original expression of a distinctive sensibility to arise out of American letters. He created an entire universe, Yoknapatawpha County, and peopled it with beings of flesh and blood whose fates readers cared about. His mastery of the stream of consciousness technique, and his ability to reflect the art of James Joyce in his own acutely original style, celebrates the heights of human artistic imagination. He was a soul ennobled by literature, who returned the gift of his intellectual and spiritual enlightenment, and shared that vision with every subsequent generation. Selecting his collection of short stories as a National Book Award recipient revealed the best in the award's perspicacity and established it as the award to be most coveted by American writers.

October 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Faulkner
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