In 2010, Wells, William Faulkner's niece, became the oldest surviving Faulkner and found herself alone with firsthand memories of the long-deceased people that shaped and supported the literary legend. After the death of her father months before she was born, Wells's uncles, including the Nobel-prize winning author, became important figures in her life. William—or "pappy"—took Wells under his wing, paying for her education and participating in her wedding. Wells remembers sailing excursions where William would allow Wells and her cousin to sip his stout-champagne mixture if they could guess the author of his poetry recitations. In these reminiscences, by turns humorous and tedious, Wells focuses mostly on her relationship with her famous uncle, but also draws upon previously unseen letters and other archival material to recreate a portrait the Faulkner family and their rapscallion legacy, which includes ties to thieves, adulterers, killers, racists, and liars. Readers will likely be familiar with many of these tales about William Faulkner, as Wells leans heavily on Joel Williamson's William Faulkner and Southern History and Joseph Blotner's definitive Faulkner biography to complement her own recollections. (Mar. 22)
"Nobody could have written this book except Dean Faulkner Wells. It is not only charming, poignant and witty, it is a priceless contribution to America's rich literary history."—Winston Groom, author, Forrest Gump
"Dean Faulkner Wells has written a memorable family story, full of the intimacies of place and cherished connections, that not incidentally sheds unexpected, humanizing light on her august uncle, William Faulkner."Thomas McGuane
"A funny, extremely readable, incredibly likable memoir of what it was like to grow up with the great man….A wonderful book."Mark Childress, author of Crazy in Alabama
"Read Every Day by the Sun, then read Go Down Moses, The Hamlet, The Town, The Mansion, and you will feel you have been on an archaeological dig with a master. Dean Faulkner Wells knows where the gold is buried, where the heart strings sang, where the understanding and love were engendered….Burn the deconstructionists’ texts. Every day By The Sun is all you need."—Ellen Gilchrist
"I can't recall the last time I enjoyed a book as much as Every Day By The Sun. Dean Faulkner Wells has performed a miracle: She’s brought a great man back to life, and in doing so she’s summoned a time and a place that now seem too far gone. I love her clean, sharp, unpretentious prose, the well-hewn stories piled one on top of the other, the intimate revelations about a family that belongs to all of us but belonged to her first. William Faulkner is a fascinating character indeed, but it is Wells herself whom I found most captivating. She’s somebody to fall in love with and never get over."John Ed Bradley, author, Tupelo Nights
"A fresh, affectionate view of 'Pappy,' the great and difficult writer."Roy Blount, Jr.
"Part biography, part memoir, Wells' work does much to humanize the man who is often remembered only for his words. A must-read for Faulkner-philes."Kirkus
"Marvelously evocative, intimate, and deeply moving."
William Faulkner's youngest brother, Dean, died in a plane crash in 1935, four months before his daughter and namesake was born. The novelist, who had given his brother the plane, took it upon himself to help raise and support his niece. In this memoir, she presents a lively history of the Faulkner clan in Oxford, MS, through the unrest of the 1960s. She tells how Rowan Oak, the Faulkner estate, became a haven for her, an escape from the domestic trials of her mother and stepfather, Jimmy Meadow, an alcoholic who died on Chicago's Skid Row. As an insider, the author is able to provide an intimate view of William Faulkner as paterfamilias. While she recounts his caring relationships with his wife, Estelle, and his daughter, Jill, she does not shrink from commenting on Faulkner's legendary drinking bouts and extramarital affairs. The portrait of Faulkner that emerges is of a humane, decent, loving family man who struggled to satisfy the emotional as well as financial needs of his extended family. VERDICT A candid and engaging book that will appeal to readers who enjoy memoirs in general, as well as those interested specifically in William Faulkner.—William Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY
Girlhood memories from Wells, William Faulkner's niece.
In her debut memoir, the author recounts her childhood spent among literary greatness. After her father perished in a plane crash, Dean Faulkner was taken in by her uncle, William, a man "of many faces, literary genius, desperate alcoholic subject to severe bouts of depression, driven early on by the unassuaged fear of failure..." Yet as Wells notes, the acclaimed author was far more complicated than his vices, regularly providing "emotional and financial" support for his young niece, playing the role of loving father. "[M]y family can claim nearly every psychological aberration," she writes of the Faulkner clan, yet few pages are spent dissecting the "narcissism and nymphomania, alcoholism and anorexia, agoraphobia, manic depression [and] paranoid schizophrenia" to which she alludes. Instead, the author provides insight into the personal life of Faulkner, a rare glimpse into Faulkner the uncle rather than Faulkner the wordsmith. The author eschews discussion of literary theory, instead recounting New Years Eves and Halloweens spent beneath the boughs of Rowan Oak and stories of her "Pappy" (her pet name for her uncle) telling ghost stories to his young relatives, complete with clanking chains at the climactic moments. Wells' personal tales are the highlight of her book. On occasion, her side stories that explore other branches of the Faulkner family tree tend to veer off course, serving as distraction rather than enlightening anecdotes. The author is at her best when she fixes her gaze solely on her uncle.
Part biography, part memoir, Wells' work does much to humanize the man who is often remembered only for his words. A must-read for Faulkner-philes.