Axes: Willa Cather and William Faulkner

By Merrill Maguire Skaggs | Go to book overview

1
A Starting Point

IN 1921 WILLIAM FAULKNER had been educating himself by reading omnivorously for about two years, starting or gathering speed after he was mustered out of the RAF in December 1918. He had determined to be not only a writer but also a great writer, and had started by writing poetry to his lost love Estelle. As David Minter summarizes the period, “By 1919 writing had already become the last phase in an educational process so acquisitive as to seem imperial. It was as though nothing he read truly belonged to him until he had echoed, imitated, or adapted it” (36). Eventually, to escape the hometown where he seemed an all-round failure, he had come to live in Greenwich Village, in New York, and to work in Doubledays Bookstore. The war, which ended before he could participate in it, much less distinguish himself in it, still lay heavy on his mind, and he created fictions about himself and his war activities that he steadily embellished.

In 1921 Willa Cather also had the war on her mind, and was about to accomplish a lifelong ambition. It had been delayed by four years of anxiety about such an enormous task; but as early as 1895 she had declared in print, “When a woman writes a story of adventure, a stout sea tale, a manly battle yarn, anything without wine, women, and love, then I will begin to hope for something great from them, not before” (KA, NOV. 23, 1895). She was

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Axes: Willa Cather and William Faulkner
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Axes xix
  • 1: A Starting Point 1
  • 2: Buzzing 21
  • 3: Possession 41
  • 4: The Sounds Become Fury 57
  • 5: Dust Tracks on Some Roads 79
  • 6: Sparring 99
  • 7: Tit for Tat 117
  • 8: Literary Hopscotch 133
  • 9: Crossing the Finish Lines 155
  • Notes 177
  • Works Cited 185
  • Index 191
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