WHEN his seventh novel, Light in August, was published in October 1932, William Faulkner was just thirty-five years old and at the peak of his creative powers. This is not to say that his career, so shapely in its outlines, was ever marked by radical shifts in the levels of his achievement: his first novel and his last are both distinguished works, quite different from one another yet alike in displaying the stamp of their author's genius. But there is general agreement among Faulkner's readers and critics that the years between 1928 and 1936 - years that saw the composition and publication of The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary, Light in August, Pylon, and Absalom, Absalom!, as well as of numerous short stories - constituted a period of extraordinarily sustained creative activity, unmatched either in Faulkner's own career or in that of any other American writer of the twentieth century.
The exceptional intensity with which Faulkner worked at this time perhaps had something to do with the relative slowness with which he found his way into print - or, at least into public notice. At a time when his near contemporaries F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and John Dos Passos were already established and, indeed, famous writers - Fitzgerald's great success with This Side of Paradise came in 1920, when he was only twenty-three years old - Faulkner remained entirely unknown and almost entirely unpublished, hanging around the campus of the University of Mississippi, the French Quarter of New Orleans, or, more briefly, the fringes of the American expatriate world in Paris.