Most renowned today as the brother of Nobel Prize-winning author
Faulkner, John Faulkner nevertheless was likewise a fiction
writer, though of a considerably different style and sensibility
than his brother. He was born September 24, 1901, in Ripley, Mississippi,
the third of four sons, and was named John Wesley Thompson Falkner,
III, after his grandfather. (Like his oldest brother, as an adult
he would change the spelling of his name to "Faulkner.") He lived
most of his life in Oxford, working at a number of occupations,
including railroad employee, highway engineer, pilot, and finally,
managing his brother William's farm, Greenfield, at which the primary
incentive was to breed mules, despite the declining demand for such
beasts for farming. Though the farm was located only a few miles
from Oxford in the hills of eastern Lafayette County, his work at
the farm brought Faulkner into contact with a people who were decidedly
different from the small-town residents he already knew. Fiercely
independent, the rural farmers surrounding Greenfield fascinated
Faulkner, and this fascination formed the basis for his writings.
first published work, Men Working (1941), is a satirical
comedy that exposes how government bureaucracy (in the form of the
"W P and A") adversely affects the lives of an agrarian family who
are forced to leave the land during the Depression in order to find
work. In 1942, Faulkner published Dollar Cotton, his only
work set outside the Mississippi hill country. It tells the story
of Otis Town, who around the turn of the century acquires a virgin
tract of Mississippi Delta and after tremendous efforts turns it
into a lucrative cotton plantation, only to lose everything in the
recession of 1921 when the cotton market collapses.
next work, Chooky (1950), is a series of sketches about an
eleven-year-old boy, who was a composite of Faulkner's own two sons,
and Murry, who was himself nicknamed "Chooky." Faulkner's next novel
would be published by a different publisher as a paperback original
under the title Cabin Road (1951). This and his next four
paperbacks are prime examples of Southwestern humor, detailing a
cast of backwoods innocents who cannot comprehend the complexities
of the twentieth century. Much of the humor in these final works
is bawdy, but much also derives from the absurdities resulting from
the arrival of strangers in the realm of "Beat Two," the rural enclave
that serves as the common setting.
final book was a tribute to his brother. My Brother Bill
was written after William's death on July 6, 1962. John Faulkner
himself died less than a year later, on March 28, 1963, shortly
after finishing the manuscript. The book details mostly childhood
events from their lives, and while the book will probably not satisfy
serious inquiries into William Faulkner's life, the book does have
a kind of innocent charm as well as a first-person account that
other scholarly biographies do not.
(Article first posted November
Related Links & Info
Memory House on the University of Mississippi campus was
home to John and Lucille "Dolly" Faulkner. Today, it houses the
Mississippi Foundation, at whose web site you can read a short
of the house, from its construction ca. 1837 to the present.
Fa(u)lkner Family Writers:
- Men Working. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1941.
- Dollar Cotton. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1942.
- Chooky. New York: Norton, 1950.
- Cabin Road. New York: Fawcett, 1951.
- Uncle Good's Girls. New York: Fawcett, 1952.
- The Sin Shouter of Cabin Road. New York: Fawcett, 1955.
- Ain't Gonna Rain No More. Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett, 1959.
- Uncle Good's Weekend Party. Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett, 1960.
- My Brother Bill: An Affectionate Reminiscence. New York: Trident Press, 1963.
- Reviews and Criticism:
- Bandry, Michel. "Cabin Road: John Faulkner's Lafayette County." Interface: Essays on History, Myth and Art in American Literature. Ed. Daniel Royot. Montpellier: Pubs. de la Recherche, Univ Paul Valery, 1985. 71-80.
- Hawkins, E.O. "Faulkner, John Wesley Thompson, III: (1901-1963)." Lives of Mississippi Authors, 1817-1967. Ed. James B. Lloyd. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1981. 164-66.
- ---. John Falkner. Jackson: Mississippi Library Commission, 1977.
- Hicks, Granville. "Requiem for the Famous Son." Review of My Brother Bill. Saturday Review 46.38 (21 September 1963): 31-32.
- McDonald, Robert L. "'On the Edge of the Porch': Entering the Hillfolk's Domain in John Faulkner's Cabin Road." Notes on Mississippi Writers 24.2 (July 1992): 89-98.
- Sugg, Redding S., Jr. Introduction to Cabin Road. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1969.
- ---. "John Faulkner's Vanishing South." American Heritage 22 (April 1971): 65-75.
- Thompson, Lawrance Roger. "A Dim Light in September." Review of My Brother Bill. Washington Post Book review 1.1 (15 September 1963): 4, 16.
- White, Helen, and Redding S. Sugg, Jr. "John Faulkner: An Annotated Check List of His Published Works and of His Papers." Studies in Bibliography: Papers of the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia. 23 (1970): 217-29.
- Internet Resources
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