Oprah Winfrey recently challenged her extensive fan base to read a collection of works by Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner by declaring them as the summer selection for her popular book club.
“If you have not read this author, you cannot say you have been baptized as a real reader,” she said.
Winfrey’s June 3 endorsement catapulted Faulkner back onto bestseller lists. The coup is welcomed by Faulkner scholar Donald Kartiganer, director of the annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference, coming up July 24-28 at the University of Mississippi.
“Oprah’s recommendation (of As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury and Light in August) will get a lot of people to try Faulkner, and many will be delightfully surprised,” said Kartiganer, UM’s Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies. “Faulkner’s fiction is not easy, but I think his reputation frightens people into assuming he’s more difficult than he actually is.”
I still don’t quite know how it happened but Caddy told me, “Go on, Bill, you should go on that woman Oprah’s show. You’re so not past because the past is never past. It’s now! She’ll bring back your books. All she has to do is say the word and they’ll be in all the stores and her TV watchers will buy half a million copies. Ain’t that a laugh! You been dead fifty years and a television personality snaps her fingers and you’re a bestselling author like Stephen King. In Oxford people always called you Count No-Count, even after you won the Nobel Prize, but now that you’re going on Oprah they’ll change their minds. Now go enjoy yourself–and don’t drink too much!”
(I think of Caddy’s dirty drawers.)
Versh and Dilsey carry me to the airport in Versh’s new Buick and put me on the plane and Versh says, “Hush, stop your snifflin’, Bill.” And Dilsey says, “I’ll wipe his nose. Now don’t you get into no mischief up north, hear?” They let me out at the airport and I get on the plane and sit back and open my flask for a nip…
I come to with a dry flask and a headache when we land in Chicago and manage to make it to the terminal, where I spot a young woman holding up a sign saying: WILLIAM FAULKNER. OPRAH SHOW
I go over and introduce myself and she says, “I’m Avis Davis. Oh, It’s so scary to meet one of our greatest dead American authors. I read you in college and never did understand it even though I was an English major. Mr. Faulkner, are you all right? Why you look pale as a ghost.”
We settled ourselves in the rear seat of a long black automobile and were driven to what she told me was the “studio.”
“Oprah’s so-o-o excited about finally meeting you. She says you’re rilly her favorite author. Oh, here she is in her office.”