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Monday, September 25, 2006

My date with Faulkner: June 3, 1997

With my book in hand, I was anxious to find a spot to soak up the literary atmosphere wafting all around the French Quarter. Didn’t take long to find a wrought-iron bench in Jackson Park, mostly in the sun but with plenty of magnolia trees nearby in case the Louisiana sun became too much.

It wasn’t. This was an unseasonably cool June as locals everywhere were quick to tell us. Temperatures in the low 80s and lower than expected humidity. No sir, not your typical New Orleans June. Now don't get spoiled.

I tossed the small plastic bag from my purchase into a nearby trash can, slipped the sales slip (its carbon twin tucked safely back in the bookstore) into the back of the book and then opened to the one story I remembered of William Faulkner from high school.

When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant—a combined gardener and cook—had seen in at least ten years.

As I began to read “ A Rose for Emily” in my newly acquired, “Selected Short Stories of William Faulkner” I remembered how my infatuation with southern fiction was cemented with those early short stories from 11th grade American lit.

The cherished eccentrics, the smell of decay and honeysuckle, the crinkle of taffeta gowns, the closeness of long, humid days and longer nights and the smooth slow debutante dialect.

I was reminded of this as I listened to this morning's Writer’s Almanac. Today is the birthday of William Faulkner. He often spoke about the short story being the most difficult form of writing after poetry. I’ve been working on a short story, though I’m not sure I’ll ever do anything with it other than file it in an electronic folder. But I’m intrigued and stymied by the process. There is no room for wasted words in the short story. But I feel as if I must try, mostly because I have something to say.

The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. — William Faulkner

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