William Faulkner and the Problem of War:
His Fable of Faith
A FABLE may not be William Faulkner’s worst book; one would have to re-read Pylon to make a definitive judgment, and I personally could not face the ordeal. But whether or not it is his worst, this new novel is for the most part so dull, so tortured, above all so pretentious, that it forced me back to Red Leaves and Spotted Horses, Light in August and The Sound and the Fury, for reassurance. Perhaps Faulkner was always as bad as this; perhaps some obsolete piety prevented us from seeing him truly. But the reassurance was there: those earlier works are wonderful, they are masterpieces. Nevertheless they struck me as the consummation of a minor, not, as I once thought, a major talent. I found them narrower than I remembered, and what was more surprising, not in the least complex. Faulkner’s prose style, perhaps, fooled us into attributing complexity to his mind. It now seems obvious, however, that he really is what he always claims to be: a simple man. His warmest admirers have usually refused to take him at his word, insisting that the pettish autobiographical remarks he has made to interviewers were a pose, the great artist’s secret revenge on the impertinent intruders who came south to pester him. Yet how much more impressive, after all, and how fitting, that it should be this way!
About the Author
Norman Podhoretz has been writing for COMMENTARY for 56 years.