ONLY PART OF THIS big volume will offer rewards and enticements to the general reader. Of course Faulkner is always rewarding in one way or another, but his uncollected magazine stories and the unprinted manuscripts that he left behind him are not his best work. This final gathering, however, will be of very great value to Faulkner students and enthusiasts, a numerous company. Many of them will be saved the expense of making trips to Charlottesville, Virginia, to Oxford, Mississippi, to Austin, Texas and to New York City in order to consult his papers in their four principal repositories. The book in itself is a fifth repository: librarians take notice.
It is Gallically divided in tres partes, each of the three being longer than an ordinary book. The first part consists of 20 stories that Faulkner published in magazines and later expanded, in most cases, to make them chapters in a novel. This is the reader's own section of the volume, since it includes some of Faulkner's greatest stories in earlier forms; examples are "Raid" and "Vendee" (later to be chapters in In Unvanquished), "The Hound" and "Spotted Horses" (rewritten for The Hamlet), and "The Bear" and "Delta Autumn" (which went into Go Down, Moses). The first and last dates of the stories -- so one learns by turning to Joseph Blotner's notes -- are 1934 and 1954.
If one bears in mind the later versions when reading the stories here, it is fascinating to note how Faulkner deployed his craftsmanship when revising his work. Now he would insert a phrase to make the scene more vivid; now he would add a whole passage that ties the story into the novel; and something he would change the narrative point of view (as in "Spotted Horses," a merely good story that he transformed into a masterpiece). It must be added, however, that in some instances the original magazine version is more effective as a story in itself (not as part of a novel) than the final revision; this is especially true of "Raid" and "The Hound." "Delta Autumn," on the other hand, gains a deeper resonance by its relation to earlier chapters of Go Down, Moses. It lost the resonance in still another rewritten version, when it appeared as a postlude to Big Woods. Faulkner didn't always know when to stop revising.
Part II consists of 12 stories that he sold to magazines but did not include in any of his published books. The first and last dates here are 1925 and once again 1954. In reading most of the stories, one feels that Faulkner was right to set them aside. A few of them, however, are better than the author remembered when making his selection. A notable example is "Thrift," the story of a Scottish airman, MacWyrglinchbeath, so penurious that he refused to accept a commission because he would have to pay for his subaltern's uniform. He survived four years of war on a sergeant's flying bonuses and went back to his lonely cottage, his pony and his cow.
Part III consists of 13 hitherto unprinted stories, all of which had their histories of going out to magazines, often in successive versions, and of being firmly rejected. Here the first and last dates, so far as can be determined, are 1922 and 1942. Readers will feel that the magazines were right by their own standards and usually right by ours. Most of the stories are either immature -- why shouldn't they be in Faulkner's youth? -- and overwritten or else they are involved in plot and weak in motivation.
For Faulkner students, however, the section is fascinating in its documentation of the author's working methods. One thing it reveals is a Scottish side of his character; in some ways he was as frugal as his hero MacWyrglinchbeath. Of course he was vastly more generous with money; what he regarded as investments to be hoarded were the scenes, episodes and characters that peopled his imagination. These he saved obsessively, and he even saved paper; thus, he didn't throw away manuscripts after they had been abandoned or rewritten; instead he turned them upside down and started a new book on the backs of the canceled sheets. In a like spirit, he preserved stories after giving them up as unsalable. Sometimes he rewrote them and sent them out to magazines under a new title. If the revision couldn't be sold, he kept it as a sort of savings-bank account from which he could make withdrawals on demand.
One example from this third section is "The Big Shot," a story that must have been conceived in 1926, after Faulkner had visited a Memphis roadhouse and listened to the confession of a drunken whore. Some of these went into the story, together with snatches of politcal and society gossip that he had also squirreled away. Time passed. In January 1930 "The Big Shot" was rejected by The American Mercury, and shortly thereafter by four other magazines. Faulkner then rewrote it, changed the narrative point of view and gave it a different ending as well as a new title, "Dull Tale." This version was promptly rejected by The Saturday Evening Post and Faulkner didn't send it out again. But he was entranced with some of the characters and episodes that had appeared in the narrative, and at one moment they came near producing a cycle of Memphis stories. One of these "Rose of Lebanon," started to grow into a novel. He abandoned the novel but kept the manuscript, and years later -- in 1938 -- he quarried a story out of it ("A Return," also included in this volume) that was to be rejected by several magazines. Apparently all this work had been a wasted effort, and yet here are some of the things that MacWyrglinchbeath salvaged from the original story:
1. The name and character of Popeye, who would become the villian of Sanctuary.
2. A key episode in the career of Colonel Sutpen, the central figure of Absalom, Absalom!.
3. A number of suggestions about Flem Snopes, these to be developed in The Hamlet.
4. The figure of Gail Hightower, of Light in August, with his obsessive dream of the Civil War.
All this Faulkner salvaged from only one unprinted story, and I haven't mentioned that he found other useful items in "The Big Shot," including details that would contribute to his later portraits of Wash Jones and Temple Drake. He saved and scrimped before he was able to splurge. There are fascinating clues to his methods in the Uncollected Stories, and I recommend the book not only to Faulkner students but to all who would like to learn more about the imaginative procedures of a great artist. CAPTION: Picture, WILLIAM FAULKNER IN 1962; Copyright (c) 1978 BY JACK COFIELD