“Given a choice between grief and nothing, I’d choose grief” — William Faulkner

Rowan Oak, the home of William Faulkner from 1930 until his death in 1962, has the feel of a sarcophagus from which the King has been ghosted away. The ornamented shell is there, the bones have moved on, yet the spirit lingers. I think Faulkner would have liked it that way. I’m no expert on his work, but the interpretation (and preservation) of memory runs through his writing. Memory is now preserved and interpreted at Rowan Oak with care and skill.

A few of his own words about time, memory, and writing:

“The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.”

“Clocks slay time… time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.”

“I have found that the greatest help in meeting any problem is to know where you yourself stand. That is, to have in words what you believe and are acting from.”

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

…and most telling of all, “Given a choice between grief and nothing, I’d choose grief.” Memory, indeed.

From the house and grounds:

The entrance to the main house. Cedars line the driveway. Although they are not native to this part of Mississippi, they were planted with the hope that they would ward off yellow fever. Now they are grand old trees, filled with woodpecker holes.

Typewriter in his writing room.

Plot outline for The Fable drawn on the wall of the same room.

His thoughts on tools of the trade.

Punctuation to his writing.

More punctuation.

Estelle Faulkner’s watercolors line the walls.

…and she had this window AC unit installed the day after his funeral. He objected to AC until the end. The timing of the appearance of the unit no doubt is loaded with meaning that we’ll never have access to — did she willingly respect his wishes, or chafe at his strong-headed bullying, or did grief finally make the heat intolerable?

The Faulkner’s servants have a low profile in the house. “Mammy Callie” is found in the house in this photograph; I did not encounter the other two servants.

Servants’ quarters in the back of the house. Hopefully restoration will be coming soon.

The old man’s boots have some miles left in them…

3 thoughts on ““Given a choice between grief and nothing, I’d choose grief” — William Faulkner

  1. PATRICIA GEIGER

    THIS BROUGHT TEARS TO MY EYES. HIS TYPEWRITER IS THE EXACT SAME AS THE ONE MY MOTHER HAD–I LEARNED TO TYPE ON IT. MY FATHER WAS FROM MISSISSIPPI–WE VISITED ROWAN OAK AND I DUG UP A SMALL BIT OF EARTH FOR MY GRAD SCHOOL FAULKNER PROFESSOR. IN MY OPINION, FAULKNER IS THE KING OF 20TH CENTURY AUTHORS!

    Reply
  2. Pingback: “…somewhere about the middle of the month when suddenly there’s a foretaste of fall” | Ramble

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