Dr. Kate Stewart modestly claims no expertise concerning William Faulkner but the Cotton Plant native has still become the de facto local authority on the Nobel Prize-winning writer. She regularly assists with the Faulkner Literary Competition and often provides reviews and commentary on Faulkner’s works.
Thursday, she was on Facebook Live talking about Go Down Moses as part of this year’s literary festival.
Published in 1940, it was not one of Faulkner’s early works, she said.
The title, of course, comes from the Book of Exodus where Moses was directed to go to the pharaoh and tell him to let God’s people go.
Faulkner’s publisher described Go Down Moses as a collection of seven related stories. “But Faulkner always referred to it as a novel,” she said.
“The Bear” is the longest and probably best-known of the stories, but the novel as a whole deals with Faulkner’s themes of young men being mentored and the loss and decay of the wilderness.
The main story is about the phases of a boy’s life to old age and what he learns from older men and being in nature.
“Some critics say ‘The Bear’ is the best hunting story ever written,” she said.
Stewart believes Faulkner is not losing popularity but conceded, “Critics don’t know what to do with Faulkner in terms of race relations…He was not politically correct.”
Also, Faulkner in these stories – perhaps a precursor to Quentin Tarantino – does not always present a narrative in the order it happened, she said. It’s also quirky in that the fate of a slave couple and the potential marriage of one of the participants hinges on a marathon and sometimes-shady poker game.
A side note: the Union County Heritage Museum has the door to the hunting camp that was the model for the story.
“There are real places in the story and this is a real memory Faulkner had,” she said.
Stewart said some of Faulkner’s best work came out between 1929 and 1936 with The Sound and the Fury in 1929, Light in August in 1932 and Absalom, Absalom! in 1936.
“Light in August and Absalom, Absalom are my favorites,” she said. “If you like detective stories then Light in August is probably best. If you like family secrets, then Absalom, Absalom!”
She added that The Hamlet “is probably the raunchiest.”
She noted that the writer’s later novels showed a different influence because of his exposure to Hollywood.
“I taught Intruder in the Dust and The Reivers,” she said. “Both went to film.”
“The movies affected him,” she continued. “I think he saw a good opportunity for making money.”
Indeed, Faulkner co-wrote the film noir classic “The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler (he also was a writer for “Land of the Pharaohs” and other movies).
Stewart probably will provide more programs next year.
“There’s still plenty of Faulkner for anybody to read,” she said.
The 2020 Faulkner Literary Festival will continue this week as scheduled, except in a virtual format because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A children’s poetry reading will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 24.
The main event, however, will be at noon Friday, Sept. 25, with the announcement of 2020 William Faulkner Literary Award winners. The categories include novel, short story, poetry, one-act play and student.
The featured speaker will be Robert Hitt Neil, who is a writer, humorist and storyteller.
His work includes books, video, syndicated weekly newspaper columns and magazine articles. He has won 39 awards for writing and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, the Ernie Pyle Award, the Ernest Hemingway Award, Conservation Communicator of the Year, Southern Gentlemen of the Year and Governor’s Artist of the Year.
Books by Robert Hitt Neill include The Flaming Turkey; Going Home; How to Lose your Farm In Ten Easy Lessons and Cope With It; The Jakes!; The Voice Of Jupiter Pluvius; Don’t Fish Under The Dingleberry Tree; an anthology The Magnolia Club; a compiled cookbook Outdoor Tables and Tales; and Beware The Barking Bumblebees
Friday evening, at 7 p.m. the Tallahatchie River Players will present a staged reading of the 2019 winning one-act play, Untethered, by Judy Klass of Nashville.
Later, at 10 a.m. Sept. 30, Dr. Elizabeth Crews will teach a memoir writing class.
Earlier in the month writer Bill Rose spoke about late coach Ben Jones, Sherra Owen presented a program live from the museum’s Faulkner Garden and Dr. Kate Stewart discussed Faulkner’s Go Down Moses.
Each of the events is available through Facebook Live.
About William Faulkner, Faulkner Garden: http://ucheritagemuseum.com/william-faulkner/
Museum FB page: https://www.facebook.com/WilliamFaulknerGardenatuchm/
Magnolia Civic Center FB: https://www.facebook.com/CivicCenterNA/Go Down Moses, literary week, Union County Heritage Museum, William Faulkner