Favorite Faulkner Quotes
Bundren on Living
"So I took Anse.
And when I knew that I had Cash, I
knew that living was terrible and that this was the answer to it. That was
when I learned that words are no good; that words dont ever fit even what they
are trying to say at."
Bundren on the Reason for Living
"I could just remember how my father used to
say that the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long
Bundren on Love
"He had a word, too. Love, he called it. But I
had been used to words for a long time. I knew that that word was like the
others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the
right time came, you wouldn't need a word for that anymore than for pride or
fear. Cash did not need to say it to
me nor I to him, and I would say, Let Anse
use it, if he wants to. So that it was Anse or love; love or Anse: it didn't
Bundren on Being Tricked
"I realised that I had been tricked by words
older than Anse or love, and that
the same word had tricked Anse too, and that my revenge would be that he would
never know I was taking revenge. And when Darl
was born I asked Anse to promise to take me back to Jefferson
when I died, because I knew that father had
been right, even when he couldn't have known he was right anymore than I
could have known I was wrong."
Bundren on Words
And so when Cora
Tull would tell me I was not a true mother, I would think how words go
straight up in a thin line, quick and harmless, and how terribly doing goes
along the earth, clinging to it, so that after a while the two lines are too
far apart for the same person to straddle from one to the other; and that sin
and love and fear are just sounds that people who never sinned nor loved nor
feared have for what they never had and cannot have until they forgot the
words. Like Cora, who could never even cook.
And let them [ask] anything. I think that if you
try to rehease the question first, it's not too good. Whether it seems
frivolous to you or not, ask it. We'll take the gloves off.
Every Artist's Aim
The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which
is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later,
when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life. Since man is
mortal, the only immortality possible for him is to leave something behind him
that is immortal since it will always move. This is the artist's way of
scribbling "Kilroy was here" on the wall of the final and
irrevocable oblivion through which he must someday pass.
But above all, the courthouse: the center, the
focus, the hub; sitting looming in the center of the county's circumference
like a single cloud in its ring of horizon, laying its vast shadow to the
uttermost rim of horizon; musing, brooding, symbolic and ponderable, tall as
cloud, solid as rock, dominating all: protector of the weak, judiciate and
curb of the passions and lusts, repository and guardian of the aspirations and
Peabody on Death
I can remember how when I was young I believed
death to be a phenomenon of the body; now I know it to be merely a function of
the mind—and that of the minds who suffer the bereavement. The nihilists say
it is the end; the fundamentalists, the beginning; when in reality it is no
more than a single tenant or family moving out of a tenement or a town.
Faulkner on the
human heart in conflict
[T]he young man or woman writing today has
forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone
can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the
agony and the sweat.
I don't care much for facts, am not much interested
in them, you cant stand a fact up, you've got to prop it up, and when you move
to one side a little and look at it from that angle, it's not thick enough to
cast a shadow in that direction.
Beauchamp on Family Pride
[T]o the sheriff Lucas was just another nigger and
both the sheriff and Lucas knew it, although only one of them knew that to
Lucas the sheriff was a redneck without any reason for pride in his forbears
nor hope for it in his descendants.
Bundren on Maternal Transformation
"My mother is a fish."
Stevens on the Past
"The past is never dead. It's not even
Faulkner on the old
verities and truths of the heart
[The writer] must teach himself that the basest of
all things is to be afraid: and, teaching himself that, forget it forever,
leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths
of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and
doomed—love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.
For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once
but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it's still not yet two
oclock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the
rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are
already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets
and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the
hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it's all in the balance, it
hasn't happened yet, it hasn't even begun yet, it not only hasn't begun yet
but there is stll time for it not to begin against that position and those
circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armstead and
Wilcox look grave yet it's going to begin, we all know that, we have come too
far with too much at stake and that moment doesn't need even a
fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this
much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the
golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable
victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago....
Wilbourne on Grief
Between grief and nothing I will take grief.
A Failed Poet
I'm a failed poet. Maybe every novelist wants to
write poetry first, finds he can't and then tries the short story which is the
most demanding form after poetry. And failing at that, only then does he take
up novel writing.
McCannon on Sutpen's Legacy
"I think that in time the Jim Bonds are going
to conquer the western hemisphere. Of course it wont quite be in our time and
of course as they spread toward the poles they will bleach out again like the
rabbits and the birds do, so they wont show up so sharp against the snow. But
it will still be Jim Bond; and so in a few thousand years, I who regard you
will also have sprung from the loins of African kings."
On Losing His Job at the Post
I reckon I'll be at the beck and call of folks with
money all my life, but thank God I won't ever again have to be at the beck and
call of every son of a bitch who's got two cents to buy a stamp.
Dell Bundren on Being Pregnant
"I feel like a wet seed wild in the hot blind
I'm old fashioned and probably a little mad too; I
don't like having my private life and affairs available to just any and
everyone who has the price of the vehicle it's printed in, or a friend who
bought it and will lend it to him.
The Tall Convict
upon Receiving a Ten Year Sentence for
"Women, shit," the tall convict said.
Faulkner on the end of man
I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy
enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when
the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock
hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will
still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.
I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will
prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an
inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion
and sacrifice and endurance.
Compson on having a sister
"Did you ever have a sister? did you?"
Ward Snopes on Being a Snopes
"I dont remember just when it was, I was
probably pretty young, when I realised that I had come from what you might
call a family, a clan, a race, maybe even a species, of pure sons of bitches.
So I said, Okay, okay, if that's the way it is, we'll just show them. They
call the best of lawyers, lawyers' lawyers and the best of actors an actor's
actor and the best of athletes a ballplayer's ballplayer. All right, that's
what we'll do: every Snopes will make it his private and personal aim to have
the whole world recognise him as THE son of a bitch's son of a bitch.
Compson on the South
"I dont hate it," Quentin said, quickly,
at once, immediately; "I dont hate it," he said. I dont hate it
he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark: I dont. I
dont! I dont hate it! I dont hate it!
Compson on Raising a Niece
"Once a bitch always a bitch, what I say. I
says you're lucky if her playing out of school is all that worries you. I says
she ought to be down there in that kitchen right now, instead of up there in
her room, gobbing paint on her face and waiting for six niggers that cant even
stand up out of a chair unless they've got a pan full of bread and meat to
balance them, to fix breakfast for her."
On Writers Teaching Young Writers
I don't think anybody can teach anybody anything. I
think that you learn it, but the young writer that is as I say demon-driven
and wants to learn and has got to write he don't know why, he will learn from
almost any source that he finds. He will learn from older people who are not
writers, he will learn from writers, but he learns it — you can't teach it.
On the Difficulty of Writing
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.
"My, my. A body does get around. Here we aint
been coming from Alabama but two months, and now it's already Tennessee."