Faulkner and the drink

Reviewing Parini’s new biography of William Faulkner, J.M. Coetzee considers the addiction that fueled the southern novelist’s fiction:

The acid test is what Faulkner’s biographers have to say about his alcoholism. Here one should not pussyfoot about terminology. The notation on the file at the psychiatric hospital in Memphis to which Faulkner was regularly taken in a stupor was: “An acute and chronic alcoholic.” Though Faulkner in his fifties looked handsome and spry, that was only a shell. A lifetime’s drinking had begun to impair his mental functioning. “This is more than a case of acute alcoholism,” wrote his editor, Saxe Commins, in 1952. “The disintegration of a man is tragic to witness.” Parini adds the chilling testimony of Faulkner’s daughter: when drunk, her father could be so violent that “a couple of men” had to stand by to protect her and her mother.

(Via Adam Ash.)

Largely irrelevant background reading:


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