Musings of a Future Librarian: The Old South in William Faulkner’s, The Sound and The Fury”


“The first chapter is going to be hard, that’s the point, stick with it.” The Friday lecture before we were due to begin William Faulkner’s The Sound and The Fury (TSATF), my professor warned us of the complex narration provided by Benjy Compson — a 33 year old male, with the mental capacity of a three year old. Heeding his advice, I dove into the four part novel based in post – Civil War Mississippi, and attempted an analysis of Benjy’s, (also known as Maury Compson) narration; I failed. The constant repetition of “he said” and “she said” was exhausting, and the meaning behind why “Caddy smelled like trees” was lost on me (Faulkner 28). I begrudgingly tried again.

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Before They Were Famous: William Faulkner

William Faulkner, one of the most distinguished modernist authors, received two Nobel Prizes for fiction and one for literature. Over the course of his writing career, he earned a robust reputation for not only his novels, which openly confronted controversial issues rooted in the rural south, but also his poetry, short stories, and screenplays. Despite his prowess as a literary juggernaut, Faulkner — much to the surprise of many of his most avid fans — encountered a number of personal and professional rejections during his early life.

Faulkner lacked an interest in formal education, dropping out of high school at a young age to pursue a career. To support himself, he worked as a bank clerk in the southern town of Oxford and wrote in his free time. Inspired by Algernon Swinburne, John Keats, and A. E. Housman, much of Faulkner’s earliest works were poems, a good number of which were addressed to his love interest, Estelle Oldham. Despite the young writer’s best efforts, Oldham’s parents disapproved of the couple’s courtship and encouraged their daughter to seek a suitor with better financial prospects.

In 1918, Faulkner attempted to enlist in the U.S. Army with the hopes of pursuing a career as a pilot. However, his application was denied when he failed to meet physical requirements. Determined to see action, Faulkner travelled to Toronto, Canada. Claiming to be an English citizen, he successfully joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. Unfortunately, by the time he reached France, the first World War had ended.

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Faulkner’s Mint Julep

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Throughout centuries, writers have shown a fondness for indulging in the occasional libation or ten. The goal of this weekly blog post is to highlight a particular drink or cocktail that an author preferred, and why the drink is important to his or her life/work.

*Disclaimer* We at the Jet Fuel Review do not promote the use of alcohol. This blog is for educational purposes.

William Faulkner was known to drink while he wrote, claiming, “I usually write at night. I always keep my whiskey within reach.” The author’s preferred cocktail was the mint julep, which has a strong bourbon base. Bourbon, being almost exclusively produced in Kentucky (many argue bourbon can only come from Kentucky), became a popular spirit throughout the Southern United States, which is where the mint julep was created.

Faulkner, being from Mississippi, probably took a liking to the mint julep due to its prevalence. The high alcohol content and the tendency for the drinker to sip it more slowly over a longer period of time than other cocktails may have also made it a refreshing drink for Faulkner to keep nearby when writing. Faulkner’s fondness for the mint julep is apparent in his owning of a cup specifically used for the cocktail, which is traditionally served in a metal cup.

The author drank throughout much of his adult life; in one event, he burned his leg on a radiator after blacking out. After suffering injuries in a horse-riding accident, Faulkner’s drinking increased and he began taking other medication to alleviate the pain. The author died of a heart attack in 1962. Although Faulkner’s drinking had a severe impact on his life and those around him, those libations were likely with him when he wrote his most famous works.

— Grant Mazan, Assistant Poetry Editor