Books: Footnotes to Genius

FAULKNER: A BIOGRAPHY by JOSEPH BLOTNER 2,115 pages. 2 vols. Random House. $25.

Back in 1930, when he was virtually unknown, William Faulkner was informed by his agent that The American Mercury wanted a biographical snippet to preface one of his stories. "Don't tell the bastards anything," wrote Faulkner. "It can't matter to them." In 1958, when Saxe Commins, his longtime editor at Random House, died, Faulkner grieved: "I'll have to hunt up somebody else now who will stop anybody making the William Faulkner story the moment I have breathed my last."

Faulkner breathed his...

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