Since my Dearly Beloved and I happened to be with friends in Oxford, Mississippi the week of William Faulkner’s birthday, we decided to visit St. Peter’s cemetery where he and a number of his family members are buried. The original Faulkner burial plot was full by the time William died, so another plot was started and he was laid to rest there, as later were his wife and stepson.
The Faulkners are buried on the side of the marker away from the road and his stepson, Malcolm Franklin, is on the road side. I took several photos and although not known for my powers of observation, I saw nothing in that fourth spot, beside Malcolm’s grave.
BUT, a University of Mississippi map of Faulkner sites of interest mentions that this fourth gravesite, long vacant, is now marked with a smaller stone for an old family friend, E. T., who “came home to rest with us.” The map points out that the whole thing is a carefully guarded secret and that no one, except for Faulkner’s nephew, Jimmy Faulkner, knows who it is.
If the stone is there, it must be very tiny, indeed. I don’t remember seeing so much as a pebble, although at the time, I didn’t realize there was supposed to be a fourth grave there. At the top of the steps leading to the plot, the family name was etched. Alas, no E. T.
Perhaps he phoned another home?
Remember the mysterious visitor–or perhaps more than one– who visited Edgar Allen Poe’s grave for over 70 decades on the anniversary of his birth and left behind a partial bottle of cognac and three roses?
It being the anniversary of Faulkner’s birth, we (empty-handed, I confess) went to see if Oxford folks made a similar gesture at the grave of their famous citizen and left a special memorial of some kind..
Um. . . not so much, although one person did leave an empty Maker’s Mark bourbon mini-bottle by the column of the marker. Faulkner would have preferred moonshine, but if not that, Scotch would do. Still, someone had been there.
Perhaps some Oxford residents are still holding a grudge. After all, he did say this about the town in an interview with Esquire magazine in 1963:
Some folks wouldn’t even speak when they passed me on the street. Then MGM came to town to film Intruder in the Dust, and that made some difference because I’d brought money into Oxford. But it wasn’t until the Nobel Prize that they really thawed out. They couldn’t understand my books, but they could understand thirty thousand dollars.
To give the man his due, he said enough things–brilliantly–that earned him two Pulitzers and two National Book Awards in addition to the Nobel prize for Literature. Here are a few quotations from his writings, not among his best known, although I found them interesting.
People … have tried to evoke God or devil to justify them in what their glands insisted upon. – Absalom, Absalom!
Nothing can destroy the good writer. The only thing that can alter the good writer is death. Good ones don’t have time to bother with success or getting rich. – The Paris Review, spring 1956
People everywhere are about the same, but … it did seem that in a small town, where evil is harder to accomplish, where opportunities for privacy are scarcer, that people can invent more of it in other people’s names. Because that was all it required: that idea, that single idle word blown from mind to mind. – Light in August