Five Great Faulkner Quotes

William Faulkner was a genius.

This morning I got a package from, that included a set of three Faulkner books, an Orpah Book Club package titled A Summer of Faulkner, and a little pamphlet on his life and work. I’m looking forward to reading the books, as I have yet to complete a Faulkner book. I started Absolom! Absolom! last year and gave up about half-way through. I have since been informed that the best way to read Faulkner is to NOT start with Absolom! Absolom!, and after a nudge from Alden Bell (see my interview with him) I finally ordered the ones I was supposed to start with.

Faulkner was a clever man, nobel-prize winner and all, and he said some clever things (and John Steinbeck said a nice thing about him). So here are:

Five Great Faulkner Quotes.

I’m a failed poet. Maybe every novelist wants to write poetry first, finds he can’t and then tries the short story which is the most demanding form after poetry. And failing that, only then does he take up novel writing.

– William Faulkner

I set out deliberately to write a tour-de-force. Before I ever put pen to paper and set down the first word I knew what the last word would be and almost where the last period would fall.

– William Faulkner, on As I Lay Dying.

I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. 

– William Faulkner, on receiving the Nobel Prize

Faulkner, more than most men, was aware of human strength as well as human weakness. He knew that the understanding and resolution of fear are a large part of the writer’s reason for being.

– John Steinbeck on Faulkner

Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window. 

– William Faulkner

That last one counts as Faulkner’s entry into a debate started here, on what to read to improve your writing.

So… any Faulkner fans out there?


5 thoughts on “Five Great Faulkner Quotes”

  1. I had never read a Faulkner novel until I read The Sound and the Fury earlier this year, and I LOVED it. I’m going to read As I Lay Dying next.


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