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The Words of William Faulkner


William Cuthbert Faulkner (1897 – 1962) one of the most celebrated writers in American literature, was a Nobel Prize laureate from Oxford, Mississippi who wrote novels, short stories, a play, poetry, essays, and screenplays. His novels and short stories were largely set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, based on Lafayette County, Mississippi, where he spent most of his life. He received the 1949 Nobel Prize in Literature, though his work was published as early as 1919. A Fable (1954) and his last novel The Reivers (1962), won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His first published story, 'A Rose for Emily', is one of the most famous of American tales.

'It's a shame that the only thing a man can do for eight hours a day is work. He can't eat for eight hours; he can't drink for eight hours; he can't make love for eight hours. The only thing a man can do for eight hours is work.'

'Read, read, read. Read everything - trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.'

'Pouring out liquor is like burning books.'

'Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world...would do this, it would change the earth.'

'You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.'

'He had a word, too. Love, he called it. But I had been used to words for a long time. I knew that that word was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time came, you wouldn't need a word for that any more than for pride or fear....One day I was talking to Cora. She prayed for me because she believed I was blind to sin, wanting me to kneel and pray too, because people to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too.'

'We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.'

'I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.’

'The past is never dead. It's not even past.'

'She was bored. She loved, had capacity to love, for love, to give and accept love. Only she tried twice and failed twice to find somebody not just strong enough to deserve it, earn it, match it, but even brave enough to accept it.'

'Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.'

'You don’t love because: you love despite; not for the virtues, but despite the faults.'

'Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain.'

'Dreams have only one owner at a time. That's why dreamers are lonely.’

'...I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire...I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all of your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.'

'If a story is in you, it has to come out.'

'The saddest thing about love, Joe, is that not only the love cannot last forever, but even the heartbreak is soon forgotten.'

'Clocks slay time... time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.'

'Perhaps they were right putting love into books. Perhaps it could not live anywhere else.'

'Wonder. Go on and wonder.’

'Talk, talk, talk: the utter and heartbreaking stupidity of words.'

'I feel like a wet seed wild in the hot blind earth.'

'How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.'

'I'm bad and I'm going to hell, and I don't care. I'd rather be in hell than anywhere where you are.’

'The next time you try to seduce anyone, don't do it with talk, with words. Women know more about words than men ever will. And they know how little they can ever possibly mean.'

'Don't be “a writer”. Be writing.'


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