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Friday, July 16, 2010

Listen to William Faulkner online

The University of Virginia recently posted audio recordings of William Faulkner reading and answering questions in 1957 and 1958 during his two terms as the university’s first Writer in Residence. The audio quality is quite good and Faulkner can be quite effusive in his answers, as the sample below from May 23, 1958, demonstrates. This exchange occurred on his last day there, following his reading of a passage from The Sound and the Fury.
Student: What is the immediate stimulus that makes you write?

Faulkner: Oh, it’s a demon. I don’t know where it came from. [audience laughter] I think every artist has got one.

Student: Do you think—what I'm trying[...] . [audience laughter] [...]. Do you—do you think before you write or do you write— [audience laughter]

Faulkner: Well, I'm glad you stopped there. Thank you. [audience laughter] Did—I think I know what you mean by the stimulus. It's—you're alive in the world. You see man. You have an insatiable curiosity about him, but more than that you have an admiration for him. He is frail and fragile, a web of flesh and bone and mostly water. He's flung willy nilly into a ramshackle universe stuck together with electricity. [audience laughter] The problems he faces are always a little bigger than he is, and yet, amazingly enough, he copes with them, not individually but—but as a race. He endures. He's outlasted dinosaurs. He's outlasted atom bombs. He'll outlast communism. Simply because there's some part in him that keeps him from ever knowing that he's whipped, I suppose. That as frail as he is, he—he lives up to his codes of behavior. He shows compassion when there's no reason why he should. He's braver than he should be. He's more honest. The writer is—is so interested, he sees this as so amazing and—and you might say so beautiful. Anyway, it—it's so moving to him that he wants to put it down on paper or in music or on canvas, that he simply wants to isolate one of these instances in which man—frail, foolish man—has acted miles above his head in some amusing or dramatic or tragic way. Anyway, some gallant way. That, I suppose, is the incentive to write, apart from it being fun. I sort of believe that is the reason that people are artists. It's—it's the most satisfying occupation man has discovered yet, because you never can quite do it as well as you want to, so there's always something to wake up tomorrow morning to do. You're never bored. You never reach satiation.
Related LOA works: William Faulkner: Complete Novels

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