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William Faulkner’s Short Stories

Yes sir. You can be more careless, you can put more trash in [a novel] and be excused for it. In a short story that’s next to the poem, almost every word has got to be almost exactly right. In the novel you can be careless but in the short story you can’t. I mean by that the good short stories like Chekhov wrote. That’s why I rate that second — it’s because it demands a nearer absolute exactitude. You have less room to be slovenly and careless. There’s less room in it for trash.

-----William Faulkner
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No one knows how many short stories Faulkner wrote—not because there are undiscovered stories somewhere out there awaiting discovery (though there very well might be) but rather because it is difficult to determine exactly what constitutes a discrete, unique “short story” by William Faulkner. “Mississippi,” for example, ostensibly is an essay about his native state which Faulkner wrote for Holiday magazine, but nevertheless it contains elements that are clearly fictionalized. The appendix Faulkner wrote in 1946 for The Sound and the Fury poses similar problems, since it was not an original part of the novel, and many editions of the novel today do not include the appendix. In addition to these anomalies, Faulkner often extensively revised his stories, either to improve the sale of a story to a magazine or to incorporate elements of a story into his novels. Stories such as “Barn Burning” and “Wash,” for instance, are well-crafted stories in their own right, but each was incorporated in substantially revised form in the novels Absalom, Absalom! and The Hamlet, respectively. Finally, there are those stories which exist in multiple drafts or versions, such as “A Return” and “Rose of Lebanon,” which are different phases of the same story, or the various versions of “Spotted Horses.”


Faulkner published short stories throughout his writing career, well before the first novel, Soldiers’ Pay, was published in 1926. In addition, a number of stories and other short works of fiction have been published since his death in 1962—the most recent of which was published in 1995 in the Oxford American, “Rose of Lebanon.”

During the height of his career—after the publication of The Sound and the Fury in 1929—Faulkner turned to short stories as a relatively quick, painless means of earning revenue. Because he had to sell stories to survive financially, his view of them was often derogatory. He often called short story writing “boiling the pot,” a mildly derisive term he used to distinguish it from the more painstaking (and artistically satisfying) work of writing novels. In a letter to Harrison Smith in 1932 in which he requests an advance of $250, he writes, “it’s either this, or put the novel aside and go whoring again with short stories.”

Nevertheless, Faulkner achieved real mastery with the short story in any number of instances. Usually, Faulkner agreed when editors requested changes to his stories, though there are numerous examples in which Faulkner refused to capitulate to such demands. In several instances, Faulkner turned down lucrative offers when to accept would have been to agree to changes he felt would do harm to the story. What Faulkner seemed to object to most about short story writing was the kind of short stories he had to write—commercial, mass-consumption stories that would sell for high prices in such magazines as Saturday Evening Post (his favorite destination for his stories), Scribner’s, and Harper’s.

Books for sale at

Collected Stories of William Faulkner Collected Stories of William Faulkner

Edited by Erroll McDonald

First published: 1950

Vintage Books

Paperback (1995)

ISBN: 0679764038

Uncollected Stories of William FaulknerUncollected Stories of William Faulkner

Edited by Joseph Blotner

First published: 1979

Vintage Books

Paperback (1997)

ISBN: 0375701095

Random House

Hardcover (1983)

ISBN: 0394400445

Big Woods: The Hunting Stories Big Woods: The Hunting Stories

First published: 1955

Vintage Books

Paperback (1994)

ISBN: 0679752528

Big Woods (Illustrated Edition)Big Woods: The Hunting Stories

Illustrated by Brett Smith

Wilderness Adventure Press

Paperback (1996)

ISBN: 1885106408

Knight's Gambit Knight’s Gambit: Six Mystery Stories

First published: 1949

Vintage Books

Paperback (1987)

ISBN: 0394727290

Three Famous Short NovelsThree Famous Short Novels

First published: 1958

Vintage Books

Paperback (1961)

ISBN: 0394701496

The Portable FaulknerThe Portable Faulkner

Edited by Malcolm Cowley

First published: 1946

Viking Press

Paperback (1977)

ISBN: 0140150188

New Orleans SketchesNew Orleans Sketches

Edited by Carvel Collins

First published: 1958

University Press of Mississippi

Paperback (2002)

ISBN: 1578064716

Short Story Collections

Faulkner published several collections of short stories during his career, culminating to some degree with the publication of Collected Stories in 1950, though there are other collections both before and after that date. In addition, at least two of the novels resemble collections of short stories, and several of the pieces in both of them were published as short stories before becoming part of the novels: The Unvanquished and Go Down, Moses. Though most critics today consider them unified novels (and thus expanding the definition of what a novel is), many of the pieces in these two books can easily be read as discrete and unified wholes apart from the larger context of the novel in which they appear.

Faulkner’s short story collections are as follows:

New Orleans Sketches (1925, 1958)
These 13 (1931)
Doctor Martino and Other Stories (1934)
The Portable Faulkner (1946)
Knight’s Gambit (1949)
Collected Stories of William Faulkner (1950)
Big Woods: The Hunting Stories (1955)
Three Famous Short Novels (1958)
Selected Short Stories of William Faulkner (1961)
The Wishing Tree (1964)
A Faulkner Miscellany (1974)
Uncollected Stories of William Faulkner (1979)

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How to cite this page (MLA style):

Padgett, John B. “William Faulkner’s Short Stories.” William Faulkner on the Web.

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Copyright © 1995 – 2008 by John B. Padgett.
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