Oxford to mark 50th anniversary of Faulkner's death

By Errol Castens/Daily Journal Oxford Bureau

OXFORD – To the world, he was a Nobel- and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, one of the greatest literary minds of the 20th century. To Oxonians, he was a sometimes scandalous, sometimes charming, always unpredictable neighbor.
And while many living still remember him, it’s coming up on half a century since William Faulkner died.
The community will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the novelist’s death on July 6 with a day-long remembrance of the man and his art.
Beginning at 6:30 a.m., volunteers on the grounds of the author’s home, Rowan Oak, will take turns reading through the entirety of “The Reivers.”
“Faulkner received a second Pulitzer Prize for this, his last novel,” states the Ole Miss website on Faulkner. ” ‘The Reivers’ is a comic novel that tells of three unlikely car thieves from rural Mississippi – eleven-year-old Lucius ‘Loosh’ Priest; a hapless worker for Loosh’s grandfather, Boon Hogganbeck; and the family’s black coachman, Ned McCaslin. When they steal Loosh’s grandfather’s car to go on a joyride to Memphis, they embark upon a picaresque adventure involving horse smuggling, sheriff’s deputies, jail, and Miss Reba’s brothel.”
Volunteers will read in short segments. (Time slots are filled, but a waiting list is active in case of cancellations. Contact reivers@olemiss.edu.)
After the nine-hour reading marathon ends, the Faulkner Remembrance will move to the Lafayette County Courthouse, which figured prominently in the work of Oxford’s most famous resident. At 4:15 p.m., Faulkner scholars Philip Weinstein and Randall Kenan will provide keynote addresses and a question-and-answer session geared for the general public. From 6 to 7 at Off Square Books, Weinstein will sign copies of “Becoming Faulkner: The Art and Life of William Faulkner,” and Kenan will sign “Let the Dead Bury the Dead” and “The Fire This Time.”
Also at 6 p.m., Leadership Lafayette will unveil artwork to beautify and commemorate Faulkner Alley, which provides an entrance to the Square at its southwest corner. The works will include photos of Faulkner and stained glass depicting several flora featured in his works.
The Remembrance then moves down Van Buren Avenue for an 8 p.m. screening of the 1969 film adaptation of “The Reivers” at The Lyric Theatre, which has several Faulkner connections.
“The structure was originally a livery stable owned by William Faulkner’s family in the early part of the 20th century,” states the venue’s website. Converted to a theater for live performances and silent films, after the advent of “talkies” it became Oxford’s first movie house.
Faulkner’s first film adaptation, “Today We Live,” was shown there in 1932, and in 1949, he walked from Rowan Oak to The Lyric for the world premiere of “Intruder in the Dust,” another of his works.
Dr. Jay Watson, Howry Chair of Faulkner Studies and Professor of English at Ole Miss, said the Remembrance Day is intended to be “a Faulkner event for the local residents.”
The Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference, he said, is aimed at scholars and hard-core Faulkner fans.
“The Remembrance Day is not primarily an academic event; it’s a celebration,” Watson said. “It’s about reading and literacy and local culture.”
For more information, visit http://www.facebook.com/FaulknerRemembranceDay, http://southernstudies.ole miss.edu/2012/05/21/faulkner-remembrance-day-july-6, or http://www.outreach.olemiss. edu/events/faulkner.
errol.castens@journalinc.com