cover image The Life of William Faulkner: Volume I: The Past Is Never Dead, 1897-1934

The Life of William Faulkner: Volume I: The Past Is Never Dead, 1897-1934

Carl Rollyson. Univ. of Virginia, $34.95 (512p) ISBN 978-0-8139-4382-4

Rollyson’s disappointing exploration of William Faulkner’s early life follows the author from his childhood in Oxford, Miss., to his first years in Hollywood. Rollyson (The Last Days of Sylvia Plath), a Baruch College professor emeritus, ushers readers through Faulkner’s stint in the RAF in WWI and later sojourns in New York City and New Orleans. The book then chronicles Faulkner’s unrelenting difficulties with money and drink; his tangled relationship with his wife, Estelle; and the publication of his first noteworthy novels, including The Sound and the Fury in 1929 and As I Lay Dying in 1930. Rollyson also reveals how Faulkner’s Hollywood screenwriting career, after a disastrous start in the early 1930s, was redeemed by a productive partnership with director Howard Hawks. Unfortunately, Rollyson provides little historical context and assumes a greater knowledge of Faulkner’s life and work than many readers will possess. Most egregiously, he avoids rigorously examining the troublesome issue of race as reflected in the writer’s work and life. He does suggest, tantalizingly, that Faulkner’s Hollywood stint affected his novel writing, but readers will have to wait for the forthcoming second volume to explore that further. Devoted Faulkner admirers may find some new insights, but those interested in an entrée to Faulkner’s world should look elsewhere.[em] (Mar.) [/em]