Axes: Willa Cather and William Faulkner

By Merrill Maguire Skaggs | Go to book overview

4
The Sounds Become Fury

IN 1928, THE YEAR FOLLOWING the publication of Death Comes for the Archbishop, Faulkner was working on his great novel The Sound and the Fury, and he snatched for it whatever he pleased. At the least, he received from Cather's My ántonia, A Lost Lady, My Mortal Enemy, and Death Comes for the Archbishop. In fact, he folded a remarkable number of their details into the coalescing new work The surprise is that, so far as I can see, he used nothing from One of Ours and The Professor's House. He may have felt he had exhausted those two already.

The important thing to note, however, is the quality of Faulkner's appropriations and inversions and nose-thumbing pirouettes. That quality has increased exponentially—almost miraculously. If nothing else, his “thefts” (his word) are his way of showing he can triumph when his work is compared to that Catherian tour de force and “novel démeublé” My Mortal Enemy, published in 1926. He may have decided, in fact, that he—like Myra Henshawe — had spotted a mortal enemy who could be both beloved and an enemy, too. The juxtaposed recognition of threat and a concomitant sense of miracle derives from his rapidly ascending style, more than content. For example, Benjy s love of a mirror mirrors the opening of My Mortal Enemy, in which the narrator sees her subject Myra in a mirror that reflects an-

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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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