William Faulkner, American Writer: A Biography

Frederick Robert Karl, Author Grove/Atlantic $37.5 (1131p) ISBN 978-1-55584-088-4
It's tempting to consider these 1200 pages the ne plus ultra of Faulkner studies, not only for the book's comprehensiveness but for its depth. Karl, a noted Joseph Conrad scholar, blends into one alert, seamless and often sharply insightful narrative meticulous detail regarding Faulkner's life with probing examination of his obsession with the Civil War and its long shadow, the myth-making that was central to his creative imagination and the narrative strategies that went into novels such as As I Lay Dying and Absalom, Absalom! (``very possibly the greatest of twentieth-century American novels'') and stretched our notion of what a novel can be. We can see Faulkner's indebtedness to Conrad, Eliot and Joyce, his influence on the likes of Camus and Garcia Marquez, his concern for racial equality, his grim focus on the dark side of human nature, and how his fiction embodied all the great American themes from frontierism to Edenic dispossession and suicide. We also see Faulkner the husband, lover, alcoholic, Hollywood scriptwriter and Nobel laureate. Karl takes full measure of the man, at his peak and in his decline, and the book is a monument to the critical biographer's art. Photos. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
Genre: Nonfiction
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