When the Old Order Passes

"The course of a river is almost always disapproved of by its source."
—Jean Cocteau

There's a story about the filming of The Big Sleep that ought to be true even if it isn't. When Howard Hawks was supervising the final cut he realized he didn't know who had killed the butler, so he summoned the screenwriter, William Faulkner, to find out. Faulkner's response was HellifIknow. The two of them then called upon Raymond Chandler for the solution; the punch line is that Chandler didn't know either.

Chilton Williamson's The Homestead is among other things a tissue of conscious and deliberate literary allusions, to Faulkner, Hemingway, Robert Penn Warren, Flannery O'Connor, Voltaire, Homer. . . . Its resemblance to the Raymond Chandler opus may, on the other hand, be inadvertent. Most apparently the novel is a what-if reprise of The Sound and the Fury (transplanted to Wyoming): what if Jason Compson went into exile, while Quentin and Caddy stayed home?

Sam Houston Walker, who tells about half of the story as a first-person narrator, is a crossbred Hemingway/ Faulkner protagonist. A professional big game hunter in Africa, he less resembles Nick Adams than the blustering, bragging Hemingway who appears in Green Hills of Africa. On the Faulkner side, he's a reincarnation of Jason Compson,...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here