Girlhood memories from Wells, William Faulkner’s niece.
In her debut memoir, the author recounts her childhood spent among literary greatness. After her father perished in a plane crash, Dean Faulkner was taken in by her uncle, William, a man “of many faces, literary genius, desperate alcoholic subject to severe bouts of depression, driven early on by the unassuaged fear of failure…” Yet as Wells notes, the acclaimed author was far more complicated than his vices, regularly providing “emotional and financial” support for his young niece, playing the role of loving father. “[M]y family can claim nearly every psychological aberration,” she writes of the Faulkner clan, yet few pages are spent dissecting the “narcissism and nymphomania, alcoholism and anorexia, agoraphobia, manic depression [and] paranoid schizophrenia” to which she alludes. Instead, the author provides insight into the personal life of Faulkner, a rare glimpse into Faulkner the uncle rather than Faulkner the wordsmith. The author eschews discussion of literary theory, instead recounting New Years Eves and Halloweens spent beneath the boughs of Rowan Oak and stories of her “Pappy” (her pet name for her uncle) telling ghost stories to his young relatives, complete with clanking chains at the climactic moments. Wells’ personal tales are the highlight of her book. On occasion, her side stories that explore other branches of the Faulkner family tree tend to veer off course, serving as distraction rather than enlightening anecdotes. The author is at her best when she fixes her gaze solely on her uncle.
Part biography, part memoir, Wells' work does much to humanize the man who is often remembered only for his words. A must-read for Faulkner-philes.