Library of America
Today in 1897, American writer William Faulkner was born in Oxford, Mississippi. He was born to a business-minded father and a highly literate mother who instilled a love of books in William and his three brothers from an early age.
His first book of poetry, The Marble Faun, was published in 1924, with his first novel Soldiers' Pay, following two years later. In 1929, he married his girlfriend from high school, who had previously absconded to marry another man, with whom she had two children. Faulkner and his wife bought a dilapidated mansion near Oxford, which they restored while Faulkner was writing one of his masterpieces, The Sound and the Fury. It was followed by his most famous work, As I Lay Dying, the following year, in 1930.
These two books, along with Light in August and Absalom, Absalom, established him as one of the most innovative, challenging and evocative authors in American letters. They would go on to be considered staples in not just the American literary canon, but in that of global contemporary literature. However, at the time, they posed a daunting challenge to the average reader and he struggled to earn much money from publishing.
He coped by moonlighting as a screenwriter in Hollywood and a short story writer. Faulkner penned the screenplays for both To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep, adaptations of Hemingway and Chandler novels, respectively.
Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949. The next year, his Collected Stories won the National Book Award. Both prizes elevated his profile significantly. He spent the rest of his life touring college campuses, delivering lectures. He passed away at age sixty-five, of a heart attack.