William Cuthbert Faulkner, winner of the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature, was born 120 years ago today, Sept. 25, 1897, in New Albany.
Falkner’s great-grandfather, William Clark Falkner, a Confederate Civil War officer, a lawyer and a businessman, had helped found a railroad in the 1870s. Murry Falkner, the writer’s father, worked in New Albany as an agent for a railroad, and the family lived in a house that then stood on the west side of Cleveland Street in New Albany.
By one account, Murry Falkner got into a squabble one evening with a New Albany druggist, which resulted in his receiving a gunshot wound. Murry’s wife, William’s mother, Maude Butler Falkner, is said to have quickly moved the family from New Albany to Oxford to avoid the possibility of Murry being more seriously wounded the next time somebody shot him
Whatever the motivation may have been, the family moved from New Albany when William Faulkner was about a year old. (This is as good a time as any to explain that William added the letter “U” to his surname, changing it from Falkner to Faulkner, because he thought it was a more “British sounding” name for an aspiring writer.)
Three events in New Albany late last week celebrated the life of William Faulkner and his connection to New Albany. All three events were under the general auspices of the Union County Heritage Museum.
The first event was a garden party, Thursday evening, Sept. 21, in the Faulkner Literary Garden, which is located perhaps 100 feet from the Faulkner birth site, at the Union County Heritage Museum. The garden party was a paid event with proceeds going to the museum and to the New Albany Garden Club. The New Albany Garden Club was responsible for raising the initial funds to start the Faulkner Literary Garden. Its members have done most of the work to develop the garden over several years and work year around to maintain it.
Guests at the garden party enjoyed food, drink and music. They also enjoyed a new addition to the garden, a sculpture of Lena Grove, a character Faulkner created in “Light in August. It is the work of artist John Steele Davis and was a winner in the 2016 Faulkner and Folk Art Competition. It is now a permanent feature of the Faulkner Literary Garden.
At noon Friday, the winners of the annual Faulkner Literary Competition were announced at a luncheon at the First United Methodist Church. The competition awarded about $6000 in cash prizes. John Maxwell, the Mississippi actor and author, presented his popular one-act play, “Oh, Mr. Faulkner, Do Your Write?” He first performed it in 1981.
At five pm Friday, the annual Faulkner and Folk Art Competition exhibit opened at the museum. Faulkner’s collection of hunting stories, “The Big Woods, ” was the challenge for this year’s juried art competition. Music was provided by Pontotoc’s “Small Town Music School,” and the Tallahatchie Arts Council provided Yoknapatawpha’ s food.
(NAnewsweb.com will update this story with literary competition and art competition winners’ names when they are made available.)
Follow the link for more information about John Steele Davis’s “Lena Grove.”
William Faulkner events, September 2017