William Faulkner Timeline
How It All Went Down
William Faulkner Born
William Cuthbert Falkner (you probably know him better with a "U" in his name) is born in New Albany, Mississippi, a town of fewer than 500 residents. He is the eldest of Maud and Murry Falkner's four sons.
Family Moves to Oxford, Mississippi
The Falkners move to Oxford, Mississippi, where William will spend the majority of his life.
High School Dropout
William drops out of high school after eleventh grade. He later remarks, "I never did like school and stopped going to school as soon as I got big enough to play hooky and not get caught at it."38
Heartbreak and Exile
Estelle Oldham, William's best friend and childhood sweetheart, marries another man, Cornell Franklin. Twenty-one-year-old William, devastated by their union, begins drinking heavily and relocates to New Haven, Connecticut, where his friend and mentor, Phil Stone, is living.
Falkner Becomes "Faulkner"
William Faulkner, posing as an Englishman, officially adds a "u" to his last name and joins the Royal Air Force in hopes of fighting in World War I. He reports for training in Toronto, but soon returns to Mississippi after armistice is declared in November 1918, never having seen military action.
"Landing on Luck"
While studying at Ole Miss (the University of Mississippi), Faulkner's first prose publication—a short story called "Landing on Luck"—appears in The Mississippian.
Faulkner returns to Oxford, Mississippi, after a brief stint in New York City and takes a job as the postmaster at Ole Miss. He spends his workdays reading and writing (rather than doing his job by handling and sorting mail) and is ultimately fired for his negligence.
The Marble Faun
With funding from his mentor Phil Stone, Faulkner publishes his first book of poetry, The Marble Faun.
Soldiers' Pay, Faulkner's first novel, is published. The book generates a positive buzz for the new author.
Faulkner Marries Estelle Oldham
Faulkner marries his childhood sweetheart, Estelle Oldham, in an impromptu ceremony in his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi, just over eleven years after Oldham broke his heart by marrying another man. (Oldham divorced her first husband just months before marrying Faulkner.) Despite their strong feelings for one another, Estelle and William fight often and drink heavily.
The Sound and the Fury
The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner's experimental novel set in fictional Yoknapatawpha County, is published, but initially receives little critical attention. Around this time, Faulkner's drinking begins to spiral out of control.
As I Lay Dying
As I Lay Dying is published. It only takes Faulkner six weeks to write this one, which will go on to be ranked among the best novels of the twentieth century.
Birth and Death of Alabama Faulkner
Faulkner's first child, Alabama, is born two months prematurely and dies only nine days after she is born.
Sanctuary Is A Success
Faulkner publishes Sanctuary, a sensational and racy novel about a kidnapped college coed. The book becomes a bestseller and helps to ease some of the Faulkner family debts.
Becomes A Screenwriter
In order to pay the bills, Faulkner begins working with MGM as a part-time screenwriter. For the next thirteen years, Faulkner will frequently to travel to Hollywood to work on screenplays.
Light in August
Light in August, Faulkner's epic exploration of race in the South, is published.
Jill Faulkner Born
The Faulkners have a second child, Jill. Although Faulkner later refers to her as his "heart's darling," the father and daughter have a strained relationship, largely due to Faulkner's alcoholism and infidelity.
Younger Brother Dies
Faulkner's younger brother, Dean, is killed in a plane crash at the age of 28. Faulkner, who blames himself for the accident, is devastated, and the tragedy worsens his drinking problem.
Affair with Meta Carpenter
Faulkner begins an affair with Meta Carpenter, a secretary he meets in Hollywood. The liaison will last—on and off—for fifteen years.
Absalom, Absalom! , widely thought to be Faulkner's greatest novel, is published.
Contract with Warner Brothers
Faulkner signs a screenwriting contract, this time with Warner Brothers, but regrets his decision almost immediately. Three years later, he leaves Hollywood, vowing never to return again.
The Portable Faulkner Leads to Fame
With the help of editor Malcolm Cowley, The Portable Faulkner is published. A collection of excerpts from Faulkner's major works, the book helps propel the heretofore-unnoticed author into literary fame.
Faulkner receives the Nobel Prize for Literature. He and daughter Jill travel to Stockholm to accept the award.
Affair with Joan Williams
Faulkner, now more than 50 years old, meets Joan Williams, a student and aspiring writer at Bard College, and begins another affair. When Estelle discovers her husband's relationship with Williams (who is only a few years older than their daughter, Jill), she is furious.
Pulitzer and National Book Award for A Fable
Faulkner receives the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book award for his novel, A Fable.
Faulkner at UVa
Faulkner accepts a position as Writer-in-Residence at the University of Virginia.
Death of William Faulkner
William Faulkner dies of a heart attack at the age of 64, only a month after publishing his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Reivers.