I’m not sure that I would have been drawn to ‘Every Day by the Sun’, a memoir and reflections of William Faulkner’s niece, had I not heard her being interviewed. If you have the chance to hear her gravelly Southern voice, please do not let it pass by. She will draw you into her Mississippi made possible by the man she called ‘Pappy’ and who was father to her until his death.
Her own father and the man for whom she was named, died in a plane crash four months before her birth. His brother, William Faulkner, had given him the plane and perhaps it was this guilt that led him to take little Dean under his wing as his own child.
She shares with her readers her families’ eccentricities and failings as well as their achievements and successes. I love how she starts by telling us: “Over the generations my family can claim nearly every psychological aberration: narcissism and nymphomania, alcoholism and anorexia, agoraphobia, manic depression, paranoid schizophrenia. There have been thieves, aldulterers, sociopaths, killers, racists, liars, and folks suffering from panic attacks and real bad tempers, though to the best of my knowledge we’ve never had a barn burner or a preacher.”
You are interested already, aren’t you!
She backs some of this up with the tales she tells and the rest can be filled in around the edges.
Dean Faulkner Wells was coming of age during the civil rights movement. She experienced first hand Mississippi’s troubles over desegregation and equal rights. In fact, she took part in them.
She was given a college education by William Faulkner, sent abroad to study in Europe, and otherwise ‘spoiled’ by him. She witnessed her mother suffer abuse in a second marriage. She mingled with great names in Hollywood and in the press.
Reading her book is like reading a Southern love story. In spite of her family’s downfalls and shortcomings, she loved and respected them and felt it keenly back from them.
I don’t know what makes writers a little more eccentric than others. Perhaps the desire to observe humanity so closely and then preserve it in print is odd in itself. But every writer and reader knows tales of their favorites that seem larger than life. And her recollections of William Faulkner will not disappoint her readers.
William Faulkner wasn’t only a great Southern writer, he was universally appreciated, probably more in other parts of the world than in his native Mississippi.
He authored such greats as ‘The Sound and the Fury’, ‘As I Lay Dying’, ‘Sanctuary’, ‘Absalom, Absalom’, ‘Light in August’, and ‘Intruder in the Dust’. He worked for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a screenwriter and met some of Hollywood’s legendary greats, including Clark Gable. There is a humorous story in the book about his exchange with Clark Gable, but I won’t give it away.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize and the Pulitzer. Faulkner seemed to make his own rules and honor them. He was known as a true Southern gentleman, as well as a periodic alcoholic.
I was impressed with the book and think you will be as well. You don’t have to be a fan of Faulkner’s works to enjoy Dean Faulkner Wells’ memoir: ‘Every Day by the Sun’. But you will want to read – or reread – many of William Faulkner’s books after you finish it.
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Oh, I am so intrigued by this book. Thank you so much for bringing it to my attention. I did not know this story of Dean and I look forward to picking it up. What a treat!
I think you’ll enjoy it. I couldn’t put it down.