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Reviewed by:
Michael Grimwood. Heart in Conflict: Faulkner's Struggles with Vocation. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1987. 378 pp. $30.00.
Sanae Tokizane. Faulkner and/or Writing: On "Absalom, Absalom!"Tokyo: Liber, 1986. 152 pp. 2,500 Yen.
James A. Snead. Figures of Division: William Faulkner's Major Novels. New York: Methuen, 1987. 237 pp. $27.50.
Doreen Fowler and Ann J. Abadie, eds. Faulkner and Women: Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha 1985. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1987. 317 pp. pb. $14.95.

The best of these four contributions to Faulkner scholarship is Grimwood's Heart in Conflict, a crafty study of Faulkner's sense of vocation. In his opening chapters Grimwood discovers psychological sources for Faulkner's authorial personality that was split between the cultured, often arcane rhetorician and the country yarn-spinning farmer he liked to claim to be. Nicely embodying the split as that between Ernest V. Trueblood and Mr. Faulkner (the personae of Faulkner's comic "Afternoon of a Cow"), Grimwood shows that this duality personified Faulkner's doubts about his vocation: "Trueblood was only the most obvious symptom of his lurking suspicion that his literary vocation was as bogus as his limp." Grimwood rightly says that this "dual self-portrait . . . originated in a repertoire of poses the younger Faulkner had foisted upon his friends, his neighbors, and himself." Faulkner played those roles that would ensure his personal separation from the very local roots in which his creative energies were grounded: he pretended to be a wounded warrior in order to impress neighbors he made constant fun [End Page 677] of; he dressed as a dapper "Count, No Count" to outrage the enduring town and country people his novels celebrate. He postured as a Southern patriarch, yet tried to live authentically as one in his house Rowan Oak and at his farm Greenfield.

Grimwood's initial psychologizing, in the book's early chapters, seems unnecessarily reductive as an interpretive strategy, as when he sees both the rigidity of the statue in "The Marble Faun" and the visionary release in "Carcassonne" as responses to the back brace his mother made young William wear. The various versions of this kind of argument are the weakest parts of Grimwood's overall thesis. He succeeds far more—and he succeeds very well indeed—in his book's Part Two, where he offers readings of the middle novels (1938-1949) in Faulkner's career and places them within the personal and ideological matrices of Faulkner's life in the South. Grimwood is better, we might say, with sociology than with psychology. Thus in The Wild Palms he can show how Faulkner "investigates the imagination of his public" even as he could not adapt to that public. The Hamlet synthesizes discrete tales in a way that shows Faulkner's confused sensibilities about his society and his vocation, and Grimwood deftly outlines how the two confusions are related. He rescues Knight's Gambit from its usual obscurity by arguing that its formulaic plotting is self-parodic and thus deeply engaged with Faulkner's struggle to define his vocation: a struggle that throughout Faulkner's career manifested itself in his desire to revise formulaic or sensational work into good literary performance, something he did with Sanctuary and with the stories making up The Unvanquished, The Hamlet, Go Down, Moses, as well as Knight's Gambit. Perhaps Grimwood's most satisfying chapter describes pastoralism of race in Go Down, Moses, where he draws illuminating connections between the novel's racial themes and Faulkner's sense of himself as a writer and as a morally sensitive human being.

Like Grimwood, Tokizane writes about Faulkner's writing but in a very different sense of that word. Whereas Grimwood would use "writing" in its participial form as an act a certain human being undertook at a certain time and place, Tokizane interrogates "writing" in the Derridean sense of écriture: the literal embodiments of written discourse embedded (to be unearthed by the critic) within the text of Absalom, Absalom! is a highly "told" narrative, with much talking and much telling and retelling; Tokizane argues that "nobody is really talking: the most 'talkative' is the writing...

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