As I Lay Dying (While Working The Night Shift At This Power Plant)

Faulkner in a rare leisurely moment.

You may have recently heard that James Franco has bulldozed, ahem, directed, written, and starred in an adaptation of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. But does Franco know that Faulkner finished the novel while working the night shift at a power plant? “His primary motivation was to have long periods of uninterrupted time for his own work” (sound familiar?) and he wrote the novel in only six weeks.

1929, as it happens, was a banner year for Faulkner: he also wrote Sanctuary, published Sartoris and The Sound and the Fury, and wrote a fair amount of short fiction. Another day job of Faulkner’s was working as the postmaster at Ole Miss–by all accounts, he was terrible at it.

Did Faulkner care about work-life balance? Did he stress, maybe, about whether he should have looked for a more permanent job? Unclear. But it was about this time that he would say: “Beginning with Sartoris I discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it, and by sublimating the actual into apocryphal I would have complete liberty to use whatever talent I might have to its absolute top.”

In sum: back to work.


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