From: Robison Michael R CNIN ( Robison_M@crane.navy.mil)
Date: 05 Nov 2002

Published in 1931, Faulkner appeared to have mixed emotions about SANCTUARY. After serious concerns about it being too controversial for print, the publisher accepted it, but Faulkner recalled the proofs and spent many weeks of hard work rewriting it. But when it was released, he mentioned in an introduction to an early edition that he wrote it solely for money.
  SANCTUARY is set during the Prohibition era. Bad living and bad luck delivers two young people into the hands of a group of bootleggers living in a dilapidated house far off the beaten path in the backwoods of Mississippi. In a series of nightmare scenes, the young man breaks free, but Temple, the innocent college-aged daughter of a prominent citizen, witnesses a murder and then faces a horrible fate. The wrong man is jailed for the crime but, fearing the person who committed the crime more than the legal system, refuses to talk. Temple is kidnapped and, facing more horrors, undergoes a strange psychological transformation.
       SANCTUARY is a dark, brooding, psychological tale of terror, reminiscent of Poe and Hawthorne. It breached the standard hardboiled portrayal of crime as merely violent business outside the law, and reached into the darker regions of men's souls, portending the coming of noir. Indeed, James Cain's flagship of the new genre, THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, came out a mere three years later. Faulkner has been credited as the originator of the subgenre Southern Gothic, with followers such as Flannery O'Connor and Harry Crews.

Faulkner is demanding of the reader. Details that seem insignificant early in a novel are important in understanding events which occur much later. Faulkner is purposely vague about the action sometimes, giving the book a murky, surrealistic, nightmare uncertainty. Some very significant events go unexplained at the time they occur, with bits and pieces revealed further on, in what might be perceived as a painfully slow and tedious manner.

One thing that I noted while reading the book was the use of two distinctly different styles. One page would use a straightforward and direct Hemingway style, and the next page would be dripping with simile and metaphor. Faulkner revised the book extensively before it was printed, so there must be some rhyme or reason to the style transitions which my mediocre literary senses were unable to identify.

Another thing I noted was Faulkner's decision to avoid writing several important scenes of violence. I assume he considered this artistic technique. The same technique is seen further down the road. Edward Anderson used it in his 1937 novel, THIEVES LIKE US.

William Faulkner was born in 1897 in New Albany, Mississippi. When he was still a child, his family moved to Oxford, Mississippi, where he lived for most of his life. Rejected by the U.S. army for being too short, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War I. He saw no action. After the war, he studied literature at the University of Mississippi, but left without a degree. His first book, THE MARBLE FAUN, a collection of poems, was published in 1924. It was not a success. He wrote several novels before SANCTUARY, including the masterpiece THE SOUND AND THE FURY in 1929.

Like many hardboiled authors of the time, he made his way out to Hollywood and worked on screenplays, including a stint with the director Howard Hawks. The story goes that when Hemingway refused to work with Hawks on the movie adaptation of TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, Hawks told him, "I'll get Faulkner to do it; he can write better than you can anyway." During the Hollywood years Faulkner drank heavily and had several affairs, while his wife slipped into drug addiction and poor health. In 1949 Faulkner was awarded a Nobel prize in literature. Thirteen years later, in the summer of 1962, Faulkner was thrown from a horse. He died a few weeks later.

Geoffrey O'Brien states in his excellent critique of the genre, HARDBOILED AMERICA, that Faulkner had a profound effect upon the genre. Another critic stated "Mr. Faulkner's writings showed an obsession with murder, rape, incest, suicide, greed and general depravity..." Can you imagine a better recommendation? Read SANCTUARY.


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