Simply Faulkner

by Philip Weinstein
Simply Faulkner


William Faulkner is considered to be one of the greatest—and most difficult—American writers of the 20th century. Yet, as author Philip Weinstein demonstrates, the complexity of Faulkner’s writing is inextricably bound up with the depth of his insights and—on another level—is a poignant reflection of the messiness of his life. Written for a general audience, Simply Faulkner offers access to this complicated man’s singular body of work and shows how, more than half a century after his death, Faulkner’s novels still have much to tell us about our tumultuous society.


Nobel Laureate and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner William Faulkner (1897–1962) was one of America’s greatest and most celebrated writers, whose work reflects and, at the same time, questions the South's most deeply held values. His novel The Sound and the Fury is frequently cited as one of the best books of all time, and all of his works powerfully explore complex societal and family issues that continue to be relevant in our own day. Yet, because of his decidedly difficult, stream-of-consciousness style, Faulkner’s books remain sadly unknown to many readers. 

In Simply Faulkner, author Philip Weinstein not only helps us understand these challenging works, but also explains why Faulkner had to write them as he did, in an effort to capture the sheer abundance and unruliness of life. Further, in his exploration of the author’s own colorful life—including decades of working for a film industry he despised—Weinstein reveals a fascinating connection between Faulkner’s troubled personal biography and his groundbreaking fiction.

The goal of Simply Faulkner is not to simplify the author, but, rather, to create a framework that allows us to comprehend him in his own idiosyncratic way. It strives to show us the real Faulkner—warts and complications and all—and to demonstrate why his brilliant masterpieces still speak to us in a deeply meaningful way.

About the author

Philip Weinstein taught at Harvard University and later at Swarthmore College where, since 1990, he has been Alexander Griswold Cummins Professor of English. Past president of the William Faulkner Society (2000-2003), he has written three books on Faulkner: The Cambridge Companion to William Faulkner (1995), What Else But Love? (1996), and Becoming Faulkner (2010), which won the 2010 Hugh Holman Award as the best book on Southern culture. In addition to his work on Faulkner, Weinstein has published widely on modern European fiction.

About the series

Simply Charly's Great Lives Series offers brief, but authoritative introductions to the world's most influential people—scientists, artists, writers, economists, and other historical figures whose contributions have had a meaningful and enduring impact on our society. Each book, presented in an engaging, accessible and entertaining fashion, offers an illuminating look at their works, ideas and personal lives, and the legacies they left behind.

Series trailer


“As Philip Weinstein suggests, there is no better way to begin than by plunging into the work of William Faulkner. But it’s immensely useful to have at one’s elbow a knowledgeable guide, and there is none better than Weinstein. He himself is a brilliant writer—clear, concrete, smart, suggestive—and this short book represents an ideal introduction to the major work of America’s most important modern author. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in Faulkner.”

—Jay Parini, author of One Matchless Time: A Life of William Faulkner and Empire of Self: A Life of Gore Vidal

"Philip Weinstein’s newest book on William Faulkner offers a rich, compact discussion of Faulkner’s life and work that will engage both new readers and those who are familiar with the writing of the most important novelist of 20th century America. Clarity and penetrating insight are combined in Simply Faulkner to move through Faulkner’s complexity in order to discern the specificities and magnitude of his achievement. This is a book for every reader of Faulkner’s fiction."

—Patrick O’Donnell, Professor of Twentieth and Twenty-First Century British and American Literature, Michigan State University

“Philip Weinstein's concise Faulkner biography is a wonder of compression and interpretation of the Mississippi writer's creative life. It demonstrates the fruits of the author's career-long devotion to insightful readings of Faulkner's works. Weinstein's well-deserved reputation as a scholar, critic, and excellent writer is manifest on every page.”

—Thomas McHaney, Kenneth M. England Professor of Southern Literature Emeritus, Georgia State University

"A brilliant selection of revealing vignettes from Faulkner's life and work, opening long views into both his achievements and his limitations, the writing of both his own and his culture's 'hemorrhaging.'"

—Richard Moreland, Louisiana State University, author of Faulkner and Modernism

“One of the most insightful William Faulkner scholars, Philip Weinstein shares with readers, in plain language, his deep expertise in the modernist writer’s life and work. Weinstein’s insights into Faulkner’s background, his attitude toward the 'cauldron of race and class tension' in the South, his love and social life, as well as his personal struggles, helps ease the way, for readers new and old, toward a clearer understanding of Faulkner.”

—Jacques Pothier, Professor of North American Literature, Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines

“Boiling down the tumultuous life, prolific career, intense vision, and dazzling aesthetic of one of the twentieth century’s most audacious literary figures to a hundred pages is a seemingly impossible task. But Philip Weinstein has done it. Here is one of William Faulkner’s finest critics at his luminous, provocative best. With its deep insights and crisp prose, Simply Faulkner is anything but.”

—Jay Watson, Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies and Professor of English at the University of Mississippi




Biography, Literary criticism



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Simply Charly


May 20, 2016

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