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New Orleans Sketches

New Orleans Sketches

William Faulkner
Edited by Carvel Collins
Copyright Date: 1958
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    New Orleans Sketches
    Book Description:

    In 1925 William Faulkner began his professional writing career in earnest while living in the French Quarter of New Orleans. He had published a volume of poetry (The Marble Faun), had written a few book reviews, and had contributed sketches to the University of Mississippi student newspaper. He had served a stint in the Royal Canadian Air Corps and while working in a New Haven bookstore had become acquainted with the wife of the writer Sherwood Anderson.

    In his first six months in New Orleans, where the Andersons were living, Faulkner made his initial foray into serious fiction writing. Here in one volume are the pieces he wrote while in the French Quarter. These were published locally in theTimes-Picayuneand in theDouble Dealer, a "little magazine" based in New Orleans.

    New Orleans Sketchesbroadcasts seeds that would take root in later works. In their themes and motifs these sketches and stories foreshadow the intense personal vision and style that would characterize Faulkner's mature fiction. As his sketches take on parallels with Christian liturgy and as they portray such characters as an idiot boy similar to Benjy Compson, they reveal evidence of his early literary sophistication.

    In praise ofNew Orleans SketchesAlfred Kazin wrote in theNew York Times Book Reviewthat "the interesting thing for us now, who can see in this book the outline of the writer Faulkner was to become, is that before he had published his first novel he had already determined certain main themes in his work."

    In his trail-blazing introduction Carvel Collins, often called "Faulkner's best-informed critic," illuminates the period when the sketches were written as the time that Faulkner was making the transition from poet to novelist.

    "For the reader of Faulkner," Paul Engle wrote in theChicago Tribune, "the book is indispensable. Its brilliant introduction . . . is full both of helpful information . . . and of fine insights." "We gain something more than a glimpse of the mind of a young genius asserting his power against a partially indifferent environment," states theBook Exchange(London). "The long introduction . . . must rank as a major literary contribution to our knowledge of an outstanding writer: perhaps the greatest of our times."

    Carvel Collins (1912-1990), one of the foremost authorities on Faulkner's life and works, served on the faculties of Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Swarthmore College, and the University of Notre Dame, where he was the first to teach a course devoted to Faulkner's writing.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-482-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Preface
    (pp. v-viii)
    C. C.
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-2)
    Carvel Collins

    In 1925 at the age of twenty-seven William Faulkner, who had been almost exclusively a poet, began to publish fiction. During that year, in which he lived for six months at New Orleans, he contributed a group of sketches to a New Orleans literary magazine,The Double Dealer,and sixteen signed stories and sketches to the Sunday feature section of the New OrleansTimes-Picayune.

    He had ended one phase of his life shortly before he reached New Orleans: on October 31, 1924, he had resigned from his job as postmaster at the University of Mississippi. His three years spent in...

  5. New Orleans JANUARY–FEBRUARY, 1925
    (pp. 3-14)

    “I love three things: gold; marble and purple; splendor, solidity, color.” The waves of Destiny, foaming out of the East where was cradled the infancy of the race of man, roaring over the face of the world. Let them roar: my race has ridden them. Upon the tides of history has my * race ever put forth, bravely, mayhap foolhardily, as my ancient Phoenician ancestors breasted the uncharted fabulous seas with trading barques, seeking those things which I, too, love. Suns rise and set; ages of man rise and joy and battle and weep, and pass away. Let them: I,...

  6. Mirrors of Chartres Street FEBRUARY 8, 1925
    (pp. 15-18)

    His voice had the hoarseness of vocal cords long dried with alcohol, and he was crippled. I first noticed him when he swung himself across my path with apelike agility and demanded a quarter for bread. His gray thatch and his eyes as wild and soft as a faun’s, his neck muscles moving as smooth as an athlete’s to the thrust of his crutch, stopped me; his garrulous assurance—“Say, you are a young man now, and you got both legs. But some day you may need a bite of bread and a cup of coffee, just a cup of...

  7. Damon and Pythias Unlimited FEBRUARY 15, 1925
    (pp. 19-27)

    The cabildo, a squat Don who wears his hat in the king’s presence, not for the sake of his own integer vitae, but because some cannot, gloomed in sinister derision of an ancient joke; within the portals Iowa wondered aloud first, why a building as old and ugly could have any value; and second, if it were valuable, why they let it become so shabby. “I bet the city ain’t painted it in twenty years. Why don’t they tear it down, anyway, and put up a modern building? They would have done that in Winterset years ago. These people in...

  8. Home FEBRUARY 22, 1925
    (pp. 28-33)

    A man sat on the curb. In his hands were a carpenter’s saw and a violin bow. The saw he held like a violin and from the bow there rose a sound, a resonant singing, half string and half pipe, which the very atmosphere, which silence itself, seemed to find strange and hard to digest: toying with it when the bow ceased—a lilting provencal air played in a virgin tonal scale, and somehow ambiguously martial.

    Jean-Baptiste leaned motionless in a dark areaway, feeling the darkness flow past him down the street, watching the quiet roof-tops cutting the sky, watching...

  9. Jealousy MARCH 1, 1925
    (pp. 34-40)

    “Knitting again, eh?”

    His wife raised her smooth, oval face and her soft eyes for a moment met his, then dropped to her work again.

    “As you see, caro mio.”

    “Knitting! Always knitting! Is it that there is nothing to be done here that you must knit at all times?”

    She sighed, but made no reply.

    “Well?” he repeated, “cannot you speak? Have you lost your tongue?” he finished roughly.

    “But it was you, ’Tono mio,” she replied without raising her head, “who insist that I sit here instead of in my little red room, as I desired.”

    “Bah! Someone...

  10. Cheest APRIL 5, 1925
    (pp. 41-45)


    When he taken me out to look over them dogs he had I says to him: “Say, whatcher doin’—startin’ a glue factory?” I says. And he says, “Well, I dunno. I got a payroll full of lads like you now, but all of you together wouldn’t make enough glue for one day’s issue of thirteen-cent stamps. Bone fertilizer, mebbe, but not glue.”

    “Whatcher want,” I comes back, “Jack Dempseys to ride them dray horses?”

    “Naw,“he says,” what I want is a few riders without no tongues. Then mebbe I can learn them something about this business."

    “Listen, fellow,”...

  11. Out of Nazareth APRIL 12, 1925
    (pp. 46-54)

    Beneath the immaculate shapes of lamps we passed, between ancient softly greenish gates, and here was Jackson park. Sparrows were upon Andrew Jackson’s head as, childishly conceived, he bestrode his curly horse in terrific arrested motion. Beneath his remote stare people gaped and a voice was saying: “Greatest piece of statuary in the world: made entirely of bronze, weighing two and a half tons, and balanced on its hind feet.” And, thinking of how our great men have suffered at the hands of the municipal governments which they strove to make possible, pondering on how green the trees were, and...

  12. The Kingdom of God APRIL 26, 1925
    (pp. 55-60)

    The car came swiftly down Decatur street and turning into the alleyway, stopped. Two men alighted, but the other remained in his seat. The face of the sitting man was vague and dull and loose-lipped, and his eyes were clear and blue as cornflowers, and utterly vacant of thought; he sat a shapeless, dirty lump, life without mind, an organism without intellect. Yet always in his slobbering, vacuous face were his two eyes of a heart-shaking blue, and gripped tightly in one fist was a narcissus.

    The two who had got out of the car leaned within it and went...

  13. The Rosary MAY 3, 1925
    (pp. 61-65)

    Mr. harris hated two things: his neighbor, Juan Venturia, and a song called “The Rosary.” He took a fierce delight in never having been able to decide which he hated most. On those days when Venturia, cleaning his premises, dumped trash and tin cans—and once a dead cat—into Mr. Harris’ areaway; or when one of Mr. Harris’ prized chickens got onto Venturia’s premises and suffered abrupt and complete extinction in consequence, he knew that he hated Venturia with a passion unknown to this world. But, when forced by his wife or daughters to attend one of those musical...

  14. The Cobbler MAY 10, 1925
    (pp. 66-69)

    You wan’ getta thees shoe today? Si, si. Yes, I coma from—tella in my tongue? Buono signor.

    Yes, I come from Tuscany, from the mountains, where the plain is gold and brown in the barren sun, and the ancient hills brood bluely above the green and dreaming valleys. How long? Ah, who knows? I am very old: I have forgotten much.

    When I was young I lived much in the sun, tending goats. The people of my village labored among the vineyards sprawled upon the slopes drinking up the sun; as I followed my flocks I could see them,...

  15. Chance MAY 17, 1925
    (pp. 70-75)

    His round, fatuous face was smug with self-esteem. He had completely forgotten that he had not wherewith to buy his next meal: why should he? The Lord will provide. And now with his cuffs turned and his collar on wrong side out, his shabby suit shaken into something resembling its former shape, why should he? He looked as good as any of them.

    “Mebbe they’ll think I’m a racing man, with a roll on my hip would choke a ox,” he said to himself, sneaking looks at his passing image in the shop windows. Nowhere on Royal street could he...

  16. Sunset MAY 24, 1925
    (pp. 76-85)

    He came part of the way on or in or beneath freight cars, but mostly he walked. It took him two days to come from Carrollton avenue to Canal street, because he was afraid of the traffic; and on Canal street at last, carrying his shotgun and his bundle, he stood frightened and dazed. Pushed and shoved, ridiculed by his own race and cursed by policemen, he did not know what to do save that he must cross the street.

    So at last, taking his courage in both hands and shutting his eyes, he dashed blindly across in the middle...

  17. The Kid Learns MAY 31, 1925
    (pp. 86-91)

    Competition is everywhere: competition makes the world go round. Not love, as some say. Who would want a woman nobody else wanted? Not me. And not you. And not Johnny. Same way about money. If nobody wanted the stuff, it wouldn’t be worth righting for. But more than this is being good in your own line, whether it is selling aluminum or ladies’ underwear or running whiskey, or what. Be good, or die.

    “Listen,” said Johnny, tilted back against the wall in his chair, “a man ain’t only good in our business because he’d get his otherwise, he’s good because...

  18. The Liar JULY 26, 1925
    (pp. 92-103)

    Four men sat comfortably on the porch of Gibson’s store, facing the railroad tracks and two nondescript yellow buildings. The two buildings belonged to the railroad company, hence they were tidy in an impersonal way, and were painted the same prodigious yellow. The store, not belonging to the railroad company, was not painted. It squatted stolidly against a rising hill, so that the proprietor could sit at ease, spitting into the valley, and watch the smoke-heralded passing of casual trains. The store and the proprietor resembled each other, slovenly and comfortable; and it was seldom that the owner’s was the...

  19. Episode AUGUST 16, 1925
    (pp. 104-107)

    Every day at noon they pass. He in a brushed suit and a gray hat, never collarless nor tieless, she in a neat cotton print dress and a sunbonnet. I have seen her any number of times, sitting and rocking upon wooden porches before the crude, shabby cottages among my own hills in Mississippi.

    They are at least sixty. He is blind and his gait is halting and brittle. Talking in a steady stream, gesturing with her knotty hand, she leads him daily to the cathedral to beg; at sunset she returns for him and takes him home. I had...

  20. Country Mice SEPTEMBER 20, 1925
    (pp. 108-120)

    My friend the bootlegger’s motor car is as long as a steamboat and the color of a chocolate ice cream soda. It is trimmed with silver from stem to stern like an expensive lavatory. It is upholstered in maroon leather and attached to it, for emergencies and convenience, is every object which the ingenuity of its maker could imagine my friend ever having any possible desire for or need of. Except a coffin. It is my firm belief that on the first opportunity his motor car is going to retaliate by quite viciously obliterating him.

    We were pursuing a custom...

  21. Yo Ho and Two Bottles of Rum SEPTEMBER 27, 1925
    (pp. 121-131)

    She was a sweet thing to see, wallowing like a great enceinte sow in the long swells of the Pacific. Rolling was her habit: from side to side she went even in the calmest sea, sighing and groaning like an elephant with an eternal bellyache, like a huge nondescript dog trying to dislodge fleas; it was said of her that she rolled even while tied up to a dock. But in heavy weather, in a sea which gave her every excuse to wallow to her heart’s content, she became singularly and remarkably steady.

    Her best speed was ten knots—four...

  22. Appendix: Sherwood Anderson
    (pp. 132-139)