Read it four times

INTERVIEWER
How much of your writing is based on personal experience?

FAULKNER
I can’t say. I never counted up. Because “how much” is not important. A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination—any two of which, at times any one of which— can supply the lack of the others. With me, a story usually begins with a single idea or memory or mental picture. The writing of the story is simply a matter of working up to that moment, to explain why it happened or what it caused to follow. A writer is trying to create believable people in credible moving situations in the most moving way he can. Obviously he must use as one of his tools the environment which he knows. I would say that music is the easiest means in which to express, since it came first in man’s experience and history. But since words are my talent, I must try to express clumsily in words what the pure music would have done better. That is, music would express better and simpler, but I prefer to use words, as I prefer to read rather than listen. I prefer silence to sound, and the image produced by words occurs in silence. That is, the thunder and the music of the prose take place in silence.

INTERVIEWER
Some people say they can’t understand your writing, even after they read it two or three times. What approach would you suggest for them?

FAULKNER
Read it four times.

INTERVIEWER
You mentioned experience, observation, and imagination as being important for the writer. Would you include inspiration?

FAULKNER
I don’t know anything about inspiration because I don’t know what inspiration is —I’ve heard about it, but I never saw it.



INTERVIEWER
What were the kinds of work you were doing to earn that “little money now and then”?

FAULKNER
Whatever came up. I could do a little of almost anything—run boats, paint houses, fly airplanes. I never needed much money because living was cheap in New Orleans then, and all I wanted was a place to sleep, a little food, tobacco, and whiskey. There were many things I could do for two or three days and earn enough money to live on for the rest of the month. By temperament I’m a vagabond and a tramp. I don’t want money badly enough to work for it. In my opinion it’s a shame that there is so much work in the world. One of the saddest things is that the only thing a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can’t eat eight hours a day nor drink for eight hours a day nor make love for eight hours—all you can do for eight hours is work. Which is the reason why man makes himself and everybody else so miserable and unhappy.

The Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 12

Posted by Jeff at November 21, 2009 9:56 AM

November 2009 (1)