Read Flags in the Dust by William Faulkner Free Online
Book Title: Flags in the Dust|
The author of the book: William Faulkner
Date of issue: September 12th 1974
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Reader ratings: 4.7
ISBN 13: 9780394712390
Format files: PDF
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Flags in the Dust: William Faulkner's Creation of Yoknapatawpha County
Flags in the Dust, First Ed., Random House, New York, New York (1973)
Flags in the Dust was selected as a group read by members of On the Southern Literary Trail for the month of December, 2014. Special thanks to Trail Member Kirk Smith who nominated this work.
William Faulkner at the University of Virginia, 1957
"No man is himself, he is the sum of his past.”
Faulkner in the University, University of Virginia Press, 1995
February 7, 2012
I graduated from the University of Alabama in 1973. I went there intending to become a professor of history. I changed my mind during a lecture my second semester in the History of Western Civilization when a college athlete began snoring behind me as one of my favorite professors was earnestly addressing the closing days of World War II.
When I completed college, I had a BA with a major in psychology and a double minor in English and Latin. Two beloved Classics Professors were urging me to enter the Graduate program at the University of Mississippi. I had been awarded the W.B. Saffolds Classics award for three years. I would have probably taken it the fourth year, but I finished my degree requirements a semester early. As I had decided not to be a history professor, I also decided I didn't want to be Mr. Chips.
I also decided I didn't want to be a psychologist. The vagaries of youth and the arrogance of it can be astounding in retrospect. I became a lawyer instead. Damned if I didn't try to be Atticus Finch and Gavin Stevens all rolled into one churning burning trial attorney. And I did that as a prosecuting attorney for almost twenty-eight years.
I drove home today from Oxford, Mississippi. I visited the Classics Department I didn't attend and felt a slight tug of regret. Actually, it was more than slight. As everyone experiences at one time or another, I wondered, "What if I had..."
Before I left, I went to the Faulkner Room in the John Williams Library on the Campus of the University of Mississippi. There, in a beautiful wooden case, was the Nobel Prize awarded to Faulkner in 1950.
Beneath that were shelves of pristine first edition, first printings of all his works. My eye was drawn particularly to a beautiful red volume with bold horizontal black stripes. In a blank field of red in bold letters was "Sartoris." In a smaller field, in smaller letters was the name "William Faulkner."
Sartoris, First Ed., Harcourt Brace, New York, New York
There is nothing to indicate what appears within the pages between the covers. There is nothing to judge by it. Nor, I imagine, could any prospective buyer of that book in 1929 anticipated that what was contained inside it was the creation of a new world.
Horace Liveright, had first dibs on Faulkner's novel. Faulkner's title was Flags in the Dust. Liveright's firm had published Faulkner's first two novels, Soldiers' Pay and Mosquitoes. However, Flags in the Dust logged in at nearly six hundred pages. Liveright read it, didn't like it, rejected it, and advised Faulkner not to seek publication anywhere. Liveright's criticism was it was too big, too diffuse, it lacked an overall plot. Forget it. Trash it. Faulkner was crushed.
Horace Liveright of Boni & Liveright; looked good in a suit, but don't ask him to spot a future winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature
Faulkner's attempt to introduce the world of Yoknapatawpha County became a struggle of frustrating rejection. After Liveright's stunning refusal, Faulkner turned to his agent, Ben Wasson in New York. The news wasn't good. Eleven publishers. Eleven rejections.
Ben Wasson, William Faulkner's friend, agent, and one of many biographers
However, Wasson was persistent. He showed the manuscript to Harrison Smith an editor at Harcourt Brace. Smith liked it, showed it to Alfred Harcourt who agreed to publish it provided it was edited into a manageable size and that Faulkner wasn't the editor. Wasson agreed to do the editing for Fifty Dollars. Faulkner came to New York. The contract was signed. Faulkner kept his nose out of Wasson's editing. He passed the time working on a new novel, again set in Yoknapatawpha County. It would be The Sound and the Fury. Flags in the Dust became named Sartoris. Who or how that came to pass has been lost to literary history.
Faulkner dedicated Sartoris to Sherwood Anderson. "To Sherwood Anderson through whose kindness I was first published with the belief that this book will give him no reason to regret it"
Each year I am drawn to William Faulkner country. I have been there so many times. With each visit, I discover a little more about the man and the people of the land that held such influence over him. Walk into Rowan Oak and I still feel his presence. How can you not? There is his study, his library. The books on the shelves he built himself when he bought what was known as the old Bailey Place in Bailey's Woods, down the Taylor Road. The double rows of towering cedar trees almost obscure the house from the entrance to the old house.
When reading Faulkner, it is hard to tell where the history, the legend ends, and the fiction begins. That is especially the case when considering Sartoris, Harcourt Brace & Company, New York, 1929. Nothing could be truer than the words of William Faulkner at the University of Virginia when he was the writer in residence there.
What a debt of gratitude the world owes to Sherwood Anderson who met the young William Faulkner in New Orleans. Basically he told him his first two novels were failures because he had attempted to write of a world of which he was not a part. It was Faulkner who created Yoknapatawpha County, but it was Anderson who planted the seed that yielded the crop of Faulkner's Canon.
You cannot find Faulkner's County just walking the Square in Oxford. His grandfather's bank building is still there, now a clothing store called Duvall's. The old man conducted business from a chair, leaned back against the wall by the bank's open door during the hot Mississippi summer afternoons. Mack Reed's drugstore, where Faulkner checked out his mystery novels is gone. Even the sign over the store front that now houses a trendy boutique leaves no evidence that Reed or Faulkner were ever there.
Down Jefferson street there is the cemetery where Faulkner and some of his family are buried. Their deaths outgrew the original family plot. Faulkner, wife Estelle, a stepson, and daughter Alabama are some distance away. Nor is there any evidence that his infant daughter lies near him, her marker stolen years ago.
But in the original family plot, there is Dean, killed in a plane crash outside Pontotoc in 1935. There is brother John, also a writer. There is mother Maude, father Murry, his grandfather and grandmother J.W.T. and Sallie Faulkner. His grandparents' obelisk looms over that plot. And it is in that image that the ghosts of Faulkner's past begin to take shape in the pages that tell the story of Yoknapatawpha County.
Yet, that is not enough. You must go further. You must walk the streets of Ripley, Mississippi, the home of his great grandfather. Here, too, is a statue of a man. Twenty two feet tall, the Old Colonel William Clark Falkner stands in formal attire.
The Grave of The Old Colonel William Clark Falkner, Ripley, Mississippi
Falkner, who killed a man with a Bowie knife when he was twenty-three. Falkner, who shot and killed a man when he was twenty-five. Falkner, gunned down in another courthouse square by a political opponent he had bested in an election. Falkner, who had been a cavalry officer for the Confederacy. Falkner, who built a railroad across northern Mississippi.
The origins of Faulkner's County are there. The patriarchs of the Sartoris family begin there.
Even Faulkner knew he had begun the creation of an entire world when he submitted the manuscript of Sartoris for publication. He knew it was special, something new, something not ever seen before. Faulkner wrote to his publisher, Horace Liveright, "At last and certainly, I have written THE book, of which those other things were but foals. I believe it is the damdest best book you'll look at this year, and any other publisher". Joseph Blotner,Faulkner: A Biography, two volumes, Random House, New York, 1974.
Young Bayard Sartoris returns to Jefferson after World War One. He and his twin brother John had been fighter pilots. John didn't make it home. Young Bayard lives in the shadow of the Old Colonel Bayard Sartoris who had fought in the Civil War. Old Bayard, his grandfather, runs the bank in Jefferson.
Whether it is the death of brother John, or the folk heroism of the Old Colonel that serves as a ghost of the past whose challenge he could not meet, whether it is the death of his young wife and child, Young Bayard is a member of what will become known as the "Lost Generation." Young Bayard lives wildly and recklessly, courting death with increasingly dangerous behavior. Without question Young Bayard is not only the sum of his past, but the past of his forefathers.
Young Bayard's return to Jefferson cannot last. Not even his marriage to Narcissa Benbow and the upcoming birth of another child will hold him at home. Perhaps the only way he can escape the past is with his own death which he increasingly seeks in his destructive behavior.
Yet, Sartoris is not just the story of one family. Faulkner weaves in character after character with whom we will become more familiar as Faulkner returns to them from short stories to novel after novel.
Beginning with this novel, Faulkner uproots the cornerstone of the aristocracy following the American Civil War. Faulkner maps out a changing South, caught in the past, but always trying to escape it. This is the turning point of Faulkner from fledgling writer to Faulkner, the Modernist, on his path to Sweden and a Nobel Prize, two Pulitzers, two National Book Awards, and a Legion of Honor for good measure. Cleanth Brooks rightly compared Sartoris to T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland. William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country, New Haven, The Yale University Press, 1963.
This year marks the 100th Anniversary of William Faulkner's death. The Annual Faulkner Conference will begin on the precise date, July 6, 2012. I plan to return to Faulkner Country for this conference. Not only will I attend, I'll be a student this year, enrolled in a class devoted to teaching Faulkner to High School Students.
Will I become a teacher? I'm not sure. There's a lot to think about. But I hear Gavin Stevens whispering in my ear, "The past is never dead. It's not even past."
Edit: This review is shared for the benefit of goodreads group "On the Southern Literary Trail," and to draw any other readers to Faulkner's first Yoknapatawpha County novel.
Founder and Moderator
"On the Southern Literary Trail"
April 6-May 23, 2014
My goodreads friend Sue Drees and I became involved in a discussion about William Faulkner and whether to read Sartoris or Flags in the Dust. Random House finally published Flags in the Dust in 1973. Finally, Faulkner had gotten his wish, though dead since 1962. We decided on a buddy read of the manner in which Bill Faulkner intended we be introduced to Yoknapatawpha County. Neither of us was disappointed.
Flags in the Dust is an incredibly rich reading experience. There is much more for the reader to consider and discover. I've read twiceSartoris, and Flags in the Dust once. Should I return to the beginning of Mr. Faulkner's County, it will be as he originally intended
I've often been asked where does one begin reading William Faulkner? My original answer was Sartoris. Now, it is Flags in the Dust. Today, Faulkner's original creation is considered the standard version. That's the version you'll find in the Library of America.
The Rest of the Story
December 28, 2014
I did not become a teacher in the formal sense. It is an ironic commentary on the values our society places upon things. Having lived a life of public service, I earned a State Employee's retirement. To become a teacher in my home state, I would have to give up my State retirement as a career prosecuting attorney. I could not live on a teacher's salary, as much as I would like to teach. I believe I would be a good one. However, the good people of my State do not believe in fighting for the worth of a teacher's services, though they believe in their children's receiving a good education. Life's funny that way, isn't it? A simple matter of self interest on my part as well as grown ups with children. Folks my age who've done their time as parents. All the legislators who promise no new taxes. A state with the lowest property taxes in the country.
Oh, I suppose I could practice private law, but that's not where my heart is. So I am done with apple picking time. I maintain a "Special Law License," which allows me to return to practice should I decide to do so.
However, I am content. And in my own way, if I should happen to place a book in the hands of some reader through the words I write, why...I have taught a little something. And that's quite enough for me.
It's about time for a trip to Faulkner Country. It's good for the soul.
William Faulkner Answers Questions about Sartoris/Flags in the Dust at the University of Virginia, April 28, 1958.
Flags in the Dust Character List See how many character names you recognize that appear in later Faulkner novels. He didn't have everything mapped out. V.K. Ratliff, my favorite sewing machine salesman, appears in Flags in the Dust as V.K. Suratt.
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Read information about the authorWilliam Cuthbert Faulkner was a Nobel Prize-winning American novelist and short story writer. One of the most influential writers of the twentieth century, his reputation is based mostly on his novels, novellas, and short stories. He was also a published poet and an occasional screenwriter.
The majority of his works are based in his native state of Mississippi. Though his work was published as early as 1919, and largely during the 1920s and 1930s, Faulkner was relatively unknown until receiving the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature, "for his powerful and artistically unique contribution to the modern American novel." Faulkner has often been cited as one of the most important writers in the history of American literature. Faulkner was influenced by the european modernism, and employed the Stream of consciousness in several of his novels.
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