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10 thoughts on “The Portable Faulkner

  1. says:


    If you're curious about the powers of William Faulkner but you're intimidated by his long, loopy sentences and dense structures (which is totally understandable) then THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU.

    Cowley's introduction (eloquent, informative) was praised as "splendid" by Faulkner himself.

    The selections are generous, form a larger social narrative, are representative of his work in a larger context but can be read as separate peices all their own. Short stories, excerpts from novels, even a detailed character sketch for every character of "Sound...Fury" which are written by Faulkner specifically for this volume. Those alone are illuminating, georgeously spelled out, moving, and true.

    You can't go wrong with this pick.


  2. says:

    I think I've read most of the stuff in here, probably not all. But the rating and review are specifically for The Bear, which I read years ago, and a second time (at least) much more recently.

    The Bear is a terrific long short story (novella, if you will) which is very representative of Faulkner's writing in many ways: the setting, the language, the stream of consciousness style in certain places, the references to the history of his mythical Mississippi county. Even though I'm sure I got more out of the story in my 60s than I did in my 20s, the fourth part of the story is dense with so much of the Faulkner mythos that it would require (from someone like me) careful study, which I didn't do, to get a clear picture of the relationships of the characters, or even how they were related to the protagonist, or even whether the protagonist in the earlier parts actually appeared in the fourth part.

    I'm sure this description will really turn off a few people, which is okay; Faulkner is probably not your author.


  3. says:

    This volume, composed of short stories and full episodes from the novels by fan and critic Malcolm Cowley, was apparently more helpful to Faulkner's broader reception than any of his own individual novels. This put Faulkner on the map with the normal reading public, which means that all Faulkner criticism stems from Cowley's excellent notes in this book.
    This is a very good book.


  4. says:

    Stories. They endured.


  5. says:

    All of these stories and sections of novels are set in Yoknapatawpha County, Faulkner's fictional creation in Mississippi.

    The author's achievement here is impressive with his creation of a sense of fluid time and overwhelming detail.

    I have never been enthusiastic regarding his prose style and often melodramatic plots.

    But this book is as good as any to sample Faulkner and stories like "The Bear" contain all the elements that are notable in his work.


  6. says:

    Unlike most of the Viking Portables, which are just an anthology of a particular author or group's work, the Portable Faulkner actually serves a useful purpose. As you probably know, most of Faulkner's work takes place in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, and this volume collects stories and novel excerpts that give you a sense of the county's history, and arranges them chronologically (by the order in which they took place, not by the order in which Faulkner wrote them). If (like me) you've only read his most famous novels, you don't really get a sense the interconnectedness of his work and just how detailed and rich his fictional world is. The specifics of the history and the important figures are spread kind of haphazardly through his oeuvre, and having it organized here in a clear and understandable (words you'd rarely use to describe Faulkner) way is very useful.

    The other plus is that some of the material is really good. It's got excerpts from some of his best novels (The Sound and the Fury and Light In August) and some excellent stories. And then there's the rest of Faulkner's work.

    Re-reading this helped me realize two things: That Faulkner was a writer who had a peak (the aforementioned two novels plus As I Lay Dying) and the rest of his work ranged from pretty good to questionable, and that he has a couple of fundamental problems as a writer. He was inspired by Joyce to adopt the stream of consciousness and other modernist techniques, but I'm suspicious that he learned all the wrong lessons. If you read Ulysses (and you should!), eventually you'll realize that it's an incredibly carefully written book. Even the sections where it seems like characters are just rambling on in vernacular were actually written with an almost OCD level of attention to detail. Everything has significance and (internal) meaning. The problem is, I feel like Faulkner took that break from standard narration as license to write these never-ending sentences that seem like they were written in one furious spurt with no attempt at editing. These endless streams of declarative statements and thick Southern slang that aren't even really that aesthetically enjoyable; instead it seems like he thinks he's got to get it all out there because he's talking about some serious and important shit, man, like he's writing this way to give it some artificial sense of urgency* (see also: McCarthy, Cormac) and too often it descends into word vomit (see part four of The Bear or basically all of Absalom, Absalom!). And so many of the stories feel like they're constantly trying to hit you over the head with The Big Idea or the Super Meaningful Observation, which lose some of their power when he does it basically non-stop.

    But other times, especially when he reins himself in or he's employing a legitimately interesting narrative device, he can be pretty fantastic. I also love minutia, and so I really respect the amount of thought and planning that went into Yoknapatawpha County. So anyway, this book is essentially all of Faulkner in a microcosm; the good and the bad. It's very useful as an overview of his fictional world, and probably a good read for those who want to get more seriously into him. The rest of us should stick with The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying and Light In August.

    *word suggested by a friend


  7. says:

    I highly recommend Malcolm Cowley's slicing, dicing and rearranging the highlights of Faulkner's works. Faulkner himself was very impressed with his editor's vision of his works, and said so. This book is the best way to dive into Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha (god help with the spelling of that world) County. Because Faulkner re-wrote so many things, literary overlaps, that Cowley parsed and cut and put together this indispensable book. It has the Bear and Spotted Horses and all the historical tales of the founding of his wonderful and detailed "world". Buy it. Keep it on hand. It's a book that one can pick up, read year after year, for the rest of one's life, and use it like a literary Bible to refresh and renew one's mind and spirit.


  8. says:

    This is a collection of stories from several novels and shorts set in Faulkner's brainchild of Yoknapatawpha County. There are several stories, some stand-outs being "The Courthouse", "Was", "A Rose for Emily" and the "The Bear". "The Bear" in particular took my breath away.

    This collection would be a great way for someone new to Faulkner to break into his sometimes dense writing style, as the stories are collected from different sources and, though ordered chronologically (by setting, not publishing date) one can skip ahead or come back to which stories seem the most (or least) appealing. Hint: if you start with "The Bear" you will want to read more...


  9. says:

    The best and worst of Faulkner. You get the simple poignancy of the Compson family stories, the spooky 'Southern Gothic' in pieces like "A Rose For Emily," but also the needlessly incomprehensible rambling in "Spotted Horses."


  10. says:

    The five stars are for Malcolm Cowley, whose introductory comments were invaluable. As for Faulkner himself, I don't know what to say.


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download The Portable Faulkner, read online The Portable Faulkner, kindle ebook The Portable Faulkner, The Portable Faulkner fb8b4662bcad In Prose Of Biblical Grandeur And Feverish Intensity, William Faulkner Reconstructed The History Of The American South As A Tragic Legend Of Courage And Cruelty, Gallantry And Greed, Futile Nobility And Obscene Crimes No Single Volume Better Conveys The Scope Of Faulkner's Vision Than The Portable Faulkner

Edited By Malcolm Cowley