There’s nothing like William Faulkner to make you feel like an abject failure as a writer.
My book club is reading “As I Lay Dying” this month and I’m going to lead the discussion. In typical fashion, I have gone a little overboard. Highlighted text. Color-coded sticky-tabs. A page of notes for each viewpoint character. A book of scholarly criticism, also sticky-tabbed. Pages and pages of possible questions for discussion.
For Pete’s sake, I made a chart.
But not only is Faulkner worth it, he deserves it.
There are writers that make you feel great about yourself. You know the ones. You put the book down and you feel incredibly inspired; you can’t wait to start writing again because you KNOW you can do it too; you’re energized and excited.
That’s not Faulkner.
Faulkner is one of those authors whose work makes you shudder, makes you moan with a sense of your own inadequacy. His skill with a pen makes you feel like a kindergartener with an oversized crayon. And then you find out that he did it in about six weeks with very little editing or revision. He said that when he began writing the novel, “[before I] set down the first word, I knew what the last word would be.”
It pretty much sprang from his head fully formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus.
Yes, he’s a freaking Olympian god.
But you know what? I’m never going to be William Faulkner, and that’s really okay.
I’m privileged to live in a world where William Faulkner existed and I get to read his work. And scribble in the margins and stick my little tabs on the pages and struggle to articulate to a group of my friends the beauty, the majesty, the power of this man’s command of words.
Because as long as I keep reading, keep striving, keep struggling, there is a chance that I will catch it: some tiny glimmer of his gift, that will lift me closer to Olympus.