© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.

William Faulkner Introduction

What William Faulkner did... and why you should care

War. Incest. Racism. Necrophilia. Mental illness. Suicide. In his collection of books, short stories, and poems, William Faulkner tackled nearly every aspect of life—from the mundane to the sensational—in the American South. One of the most highly regarded novelists of the twentieth century, Faulkner was a brilliant, innovative, and notably eccentric man with a taste for whiskey (Faulkner began to drink heavily at the age of seventeen) and fragmented narratives. Throughout his life, Faulkner was something of a misfit, notorious for his haughtiness and his tendency to invent stories about himself.

In his writing career, however, Faulkner's unorthodoxy led to great success: by pioneering new techniques in form and style, Faulkner helped revolutionize the notion of the "narrative" and, in the process, produced some of the greatest works of American literature. His story is all the more compelling considering that he never even graduated from high school! Although Faulkner received many awards and accolades, he lived most of his life in obscurity; he was not regarded as an author of any real importance until he was nearly fifty years old. In addition, his personal life was a mess—he continually struggled with alcoholism, debt, and repeated bouts of infidelity. The story of William Faulkner's life is thus a tale of perseverance, failure, creativity, and success.

In his work, William Faulkner created some of the most enduring and detailed portraits of life in the American South. His novels, which explore family dynamics, race, gender, and social class, have riveted—and challenged—readers for over sixty years with their iconic characters, intricate plotlines, and myriad shifts in time. Some of the greatest authors of the twentieth century, including Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Joyce Carol Oates, Albert Camus, Jose Luis Borges, Toni Morrison, and Cormac McCarthy, cite Faulkner as a major influence on their work. If you've ever read a book that doesn't move from point A to point B but, instead, from point A to point Z to point T and back, you should keep reading. Faulkner is one of the guys who did it first.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...