The Unsovereign Artist

A thousand-page book, like a thousand-foot ship, must not disappoint; unfortunately, Karl Frederick's William Faulkner is the QE II of American literary biography. "This book attempts," Professor Karl states in his foreword, "to integrate the latest in biographical information with Faulkner's own large body of work in fiction and poetry." He adds that, "It will not replace Joseph Blotner's monumental two-volume biography of Faulkner, which is an altogether different kind of book," but does not deign to mention the more recently published William Faulkner: The Man and the Artist (Harper & Row, 1987) by Stephen B. Oates—an (atrocious) exercise in what its author described as "pure biography," making use of "psychological insights" in order "to shape the whole of Faulkner's life so as to suggest its essence." Especially by comparison with Oates's vulgarly pretentious aim, Professor Karl's agenda may strike the sympathetic reader as a refreshingly straightforward alternative to Professor Blotner's old-fashioned (impure?) biographical approach. In this frame of mind, it is possible to pass uncritically over Professor Karl's subsequent words, when he says, "This study is in the deepest [!] sense a biography: not only a presentation of the relevant facts of the subject's life, but an effort to understand and interpret...

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