WILLIAM FAULKNER: The Man and the Art by Stephen B. Oates

WILLIAM FAULKNER: The Man and the Art

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Another ""popular biography"" by the author whose previous volumes include portraits of John Brown, Nat Turner, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Using what he terms ""novelistic techniques,"" Oates has produced a superficial and clichÉ-ridden work. In his preface, Oates claims he has ""tried to offer a consistent and coherent interpretation of character."" But there is almost no probing into the forces that turned Faulkner's life into a dreary round of dalliance, debt, and delirium tremens. What psychological delving there is remains on the level of a paperback romance. The conflicts and contradictions in the Nobel Prize winner's personality are all but ignored in favor of ""revelations"" of the ""their eyes met; their hearts stopped"" variety. The situation is not improved by Oates' ""fine writing."" A freighter did not cross the Atlantic in July 1925, for example: it ""pushed one empty horizon ahead of it and drew another be. hind."" There are also ""spindrift"" moons and ""star-flung"" nights. As a master of literary style, William Faulkner deserves better. Shallow, simplistic, eminently avoidable. Readers would be wise to stick to Joseph Blotner's 1974 two-volume study--lengthier perhaps, but less sensational and far more credible and explicative.

Pub Date: Aug. 12th, 1987
Publisher: Harper & Row