Charles Poore. “Books of the Times.” New York Times, April 1, 1954, p. 29.
Who reads Faulkner, the Nobel laureate of Yoknapatawpha County? Is he, as we have occasionally been told, a terrifically difficult writer whose stories are veiled in unutterable lore? Well, that's the legend. And legends die hard.
The truth, however, seems to be spectacularly otherwise. It shows, in fact, that he is hardly least among the popular writers of America. A survey made for this morning's column reveals that his publishers have sold more than 600,000 copies of his books in the Random House and Modern Library editions. And the New American Library reports that the total sales of nine Faulkner titles in paperback editions are nearing 5,000,000 copies. A roundish sum. Furthermore, the fact that three of the stories in his new anthology, The Faulkner Reader, appeared first in The Saturday Evening Post in 1932, 1942, and 1943, calls for a certain amount of revision in the cultists' theory of his abounding obscurity.
Would it not be fair to say, then, that–among book readers–those who find this distinguished Mississippi hunter, fisherman, farmer, and author hard to understand are in the minority? Those who think he is hard to read underestimate the intelligence of Americans. Anyone who can follow the punctuationless cadence of a telephone conversation can follow Faulkner. As Eudora Welty has pointed out: “His stories seem to race with time, race with the world”–and “the reason Faulkner's unwieldy looking sentences can race is of course their high organization, a musical organization.”
Also, I think he likes to leave out periods to bedevil the critics. The thing to do is to plunge into the stream of Faulkner's writing and enjoy it, along with several million other Americans.