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Faux Faulkner

      When Miss Grimly Gruesome sighed (“Oh Lobe. There’s a bad smell in here again. Lobe? Lobe!”) we had been standing on her lawn for forty-four years, still waiting to collect the library fines she owed and probably wouldn’t pay tomorrow, or even tomorrow and tomorrow, while she kept her squarish round frame in an enroached and ex-spired old Gothic two-story-split, a nosesore among eyesores, hearing her complain to her manservant....
-------W. FAUXkner

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Faulkner must be among the most sincerely flattered writers of this or any century: a writer of prose distinctively styled fashioned composed often with unusual or missing punctuation capitalization wordforms (not to mention long expanses of language that continue without sentence or paragraph breaks frequently parenthetically for pages and pages one idea crashing into another forming a unique rhetorical approach to ideas few writers have the ability or chutzpah to match), unusual syntax also often found in his writing, etc., etc., etc...

Indeed, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Faulkner must be well loved, for since 1990, would-be Faulknerians have been imitating, parodying, and yes, poking fun at the prose stylings of the great writer. The Annual Faux Faulkner Contest attracts hundreds of entries from around the world, each attempting to mimic the unmistakable style, themes, characters, or plots from Faulkner’s works in a short-short story of up to 500 words. The winner is announced each August at the Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference in Oxford.

Faux Faulkner may have become institutionalized, after a fashion, in 1990, but parodies of Faulkner date back much further—in fact, to a decade before Faulkner wrote The Sound and the Fury. When Faulkner was enrolled as a special student at the University of Mississippi during the 1919-20 school year, he wrote a number of poems and short stories which were published in The Mississippian, the student newspaper. Not long after, parodies of his European-styled poems began to appear in the paper. The most celebrated of these, no doubt, was a parody of Faulkner’s poem “Une Ballade des Femmes Perdues”—attributed to a “Lord Greyson,” it was entitled “Une Ballade d’une Vache Perdue” (“Song of a Lost Cow”). As Joseph Blotner wrote in his biography of Faulkner,

It described the heifer, Betsy, lost and wandering far from home. In spite of an awkward refrain, it was much better than [an earlier published parody], and the poet had enjoyed himself describing the pastoral scene and Betsy’s “rounded curves” and “waving tresses” as “she stood there nude....”

As Blotner notes, the parody must have amused Faulkner himself, for more than fifteen years later, he would himself take up the subject—in a parody of himself—in “Afternoon of a Cow” (p. 82).

Over the years, others have periodically parodied (and sometimes even published!) Faulkner’s style. But it was in 1990, taking inspiration from the “late, lamented Imitation Hemingway Competition sponsored by Harry’s Bar and American Grill,” that Dean Faulkner Wells (Faulkner’s niece) instituted the Faux Faulkner Contest. Sponsored by the Yoknapatawpha Press, American Way magzine, and the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss, the inaugural competition attracted 650 entries from 48 states and three continents.

Some of the entries from the first two years of the Faux Faulkner contest have been collected in The Best of Bad Faulkner, published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1991. Included are such dubious titles as “As I Lay Dieting,” “Inclusion in the Rust,” and “The Round and the Furry.” Also included are a few Faulkner parodies from the past, such as Peter DeVries’ “Requiem for a Noun, Or Intruder in the Dusk” and Faulkner’s “Afternoon of a Cow” (attributed to Ernest V. Trueblood).

Beginning with the 1996 competition, a new (and especially appropriate, considering Faulkner’s taste for bourbon) sponsor, Jack Daniels, joined the Yoknapatawpha Press in sponsoring the Faux Faulkner Contest.

To find out more about the Faux Faulkner Contest and how to enter, visit the Faux Faulkner Contest web page available from the Yoknapatawpha Press

* Actually, the quoted excerpt at the top of this page is the first sentence from “A Rose for Hemingway” by Peter Stoicheff, the winning entry from the 1995 Faux Faulkner contest.

This page was last modified on Monday, October 09, 2000 at 11:56 AM -0500

Copyright © 1995-2001 by John B. Padgett

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