by Jennifer Ward
Back when I was in high school and college, I read a few of William Faulkner’s books and short stories. Most of us have at some point read or heard of “A Rose for Emily” or come across some of his other frequently anthologized stories. I still remember his novel, As I Lay Dying (the first one I read). My first impressions were: I’ve never read a book like this. What an incredible story, and what a unique way to tell it.
The southern gothic narrative unfolds through the eyes of 15 different characters, some of whom are related to Addie, the mother of the Bundren family. Early on, she passes away, and much of the story is about the journey to bury her in Jefferson, Mississippi. Selfish motives or not, the characters continue on their trip as we learn about the current situation through many perspectives.
Last week I was challenged in a fiction writing class to mimic an author I admire, and I chose Faulkner. Although he is a difficult author to imitate, I admire him for his experimental side and originality. Faulkner is known for his slow, lengthy descriptions of characters and objects. His sentences are often complex and quite different from Hemingway’s sparse style (a near complete opposite). Faulkner’s writing is a slow burn, and I tried to emulate that with the description below. The characters and situation were drawn from my novel in progress.
It was a Friday evening in mid-June when Hayley walked down the old Brooklyn Street. It was perhaps a strange time of day to be heading to a job interview, but she agreed last week to meet Mrs. Ryan to discuss the proposed tutoring position. She had assumed, at first, the house belonged to her but learned toward the end of their last conversation that it was owned by her parents. Since the death of Mr. Ryan, Mrs. Ryan and her daughter Julia have been living here, and it was explained that if hired, this is where Hayley would tutor Julia over the summer.
1720 Ridge Road was a large, fairy-tale-like cottage made of uncut stones of different colors and sizes; somewhat pieced together haphazardly like a jigsaw puzzle, situated on what was considered by locals as one of the quietest streets by the Narrows Bay. Although the house was similar in style to a cottage, it was anything but small. Across the front of the house, there was a long row of double-hung windows with brown shutters facing the vast lawn.
A grand, wrought-iron gate surrounded the sloped property; the top of it was adorned with an intricate leafy design. Over the years, she had read about houses like this one, but she had never visited such an unusual place with this much character. It was as if she had stepped out of Brooklyn and into another world.
From the corner of her eye, she noticed Mrs. Ryan standing in the garage doorway beside a row of hedges. Hayley waved and walked over, slowly pushing the heavy gated door aside.
As of 2022, some of Faulkner’s first stories entered the public domain. If you’re interested in his life and legacy, you can learn more at https://williamfaulknersociety.com/
Do you have a favorite Faulkner story or a most-loved author you admire? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below.
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