Faulkner's genius was homey and hieratic, tub-thumping and visionary. The novels, the tall-tales, the Gothic grotesques like Dilsey and Quentin, Sutpen and Snopes, were all rooted in the earth, yet sharpened with biblical grandeur. As Cowley aptly remarks in an admittedly slight, but warm and perceptive memoir, Faulkner was ""the first distinguished American man of letters who spent most of his life in a country town,"" indifferent to, even disdainful of, cosmopolitan culture. Privacy and the life of the imagination were his gods. No wonder, then, that in the early Forties his seventeen assorted volumes were out of print and he himself was stoically working every half year as a Hollywood back. It remained for Cowley to put things right. Editing the Portable Faulkner and thereby establishing Yoknapatawpha County on the literary map, Cowley shepherded the unruly giant to lasting fame and critical huzzas. Interestingly documenting the vagaries of publishing, interspersed with 26 mildly revealing letters from the novelist, mostly on bread-and-butter matters, Cowley spins a sensible, modest account. The Faulkner portrait--an agreeably introverted, rural aristocrat- never really emerges into compelling focus. But the anecdotal glimpses (especially the one of the Southern gentleman desolated by a gimmicky Life ""profile""), and Cowley's concluding chapter, a summing-up tribute, do convey something of Faulkner's struggles, powers and significance.