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One Matchless Time: A Life of William Faulkner

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  131 ratings  ·  24 reviews
William Faulkner was a literary genius, and one of America's most important and influential writers. Drawing on previously unavailable sources -- including letters, memoirs, and interviews with Faulkner's daughter and lovers -- Jay Parini has crafted a biography that delves into the mystery of this gifted and troubled writer. His Faulkner is an extremely talented, obsessiv ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published June 14th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published 2004)
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Chuck
I really liked this book

I approached it with jaded eyes because I didn't particlarly care for Jay Parini's biography of John Steinbeck. That book wasn't bad; it just didn't do a whole lot that was original except it its interpretations of some of Steinbeck's texts. I didn't learn much from Parini's Steinbeck that I hadn't already learned from Jackson J. Benson's biography, published a number of years earlier.

Such was not the case with Parini's 'One Matchless Time," his Faulkner biography. Parini
...more
Charles Weinberg
Parini's hero worship isn't very useful--emphasis on hyper-individuality an (author) origin-ality taking precedent over larger social frameworks. In the conclusion he states, "In a very real sense, Faulkner fathered himself, having seen fatherhood diluted as it passed down" (428) (this conceit of Faulkner as god of Yoknapatawpha is periodically asserted). Creation myths--something out of nothing? Diluted blood? Seems lazy and old fashioned for a biographer. Beyond that, the book was compelling a ...more
Eric Smith
I just finished this wonderful biography and want to recommend it to anyone who has an interest in Faulkner. The book reviews each book that he wrote, some in more detail than others, but all of them are covered. It also covers his life in detail - including his hospitalizations due to drinking and his personal struggles - yet it is not an exposé. I have read seven of Faulkers novels and this book has increased my interest in reading all the Mississippi novels, if not ""A Fable,"" ""Pylon,"" and ...more
Dana
I liked that Faulkner came off as such a pleasant man of gentile manners when inside, judging from his books and drinking problems, he was hounded by demons. So easy to hide secrets when you're quiet.

I felt this book was a good overview of Faulkner's life but was a bit too sympathetic towards the man. Usually when I walk away from a biography I'm left with a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth. I was also disappointed that towards the end of his life Faulkner became such a humanist. I'd preferred
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Jason
a whirlwind tour of faulkner's life...not a lot of depth or detail...for that i guess you need to read blotner...
in spite of this i still really enjoyed this book...parini is very reverent to faulkner and his work, which i appreciated, and treats both subjects with obvious tenderness and grace...faulkner's failings as a husband, as a son, as an artist, and as a human being are not paraded before the reader as gleeful schadenfreude...one comes away from both faulkner's triumphs and failures with
...more
Al
Faulkner makes the reader “go to work,” Conrad Aiken once wrote; that likely sums up one’s own attitude towards Faulkner—one either feels rewarded by putting in “the work” demanded by a Faulkner novel or frustrated by a waste of energy in deciphering and analyzing. I was in the former group in my twenties when an English professor guided me through one of William Faulkner’s most challenging novels, “The Sound and the Fury.” That book and others by Faulkner that I eagerly read helped open up the ...more
Emily
For the second time in my life, I'm going to stop reading a book without finishing it. While I realize biographies are written to provide factual information, I'm disappointed with how dry this text has been in the first sixty pages. The only time Parini shows any animation is when he discusses Faulkner's boyhood poetry, coming alive as he illuminates enjambments and rhythm. Otherwise the biography is stale. I'm even more interested in reading The Last Station now, curious as to whether Parini a ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

Faulkner must hold an irresistible allure for biographers, but Joseph Blotner's colossal 1974 biography of the author and the shortage of much new information beyond Blotner's work make all but the most devoted writers move forward. Parini, novelist, poet, and biographer of Robert Frost and John Steinbeck, takes a pragmatic approach, opting for concision and a smattering of new interviews with Faulkner's friends and family. The book weaves Faulkner's story in with chronological analyses of his b

...more
Mary
I grew up in Faulkner country and received an English degree from Ole Miss but failed to become enraptured with "Count No-Count," as the locals called Faulkner in his youth. This book popped off the library shelf, and I thought it time to rectify this oversight. Parini intersperses a chapter of biography with a chapter about Faulkner's writings at that time. While it could be dizzying in the hands of some writers, in this case it is merely dazzling. I came to appreciate Bill F. and share his lov ...more
Kevin Kizer
Good to re-read this after having read most of Faulkner's work in the last couple of years. He seems to me to be one of the few brilliant American writers who had a complete career. Hemingway and F. Scott were cut short. What's maddening about Faulkner was his repeated horse-riding injuries and his alcoholism. I lost count of how many times he had to go to a sanatorium to clean up. I mean, we are talking DOZENS of times. I think his stubborness and refusal to stop riding recklessly is as much to ...more
Thomas Walsh
the beauty of this bio is Mr. Parini has spliced together not only the facts of Faulkner's life, but also the summary of each novel. So, we can understand what "led up to", e.g., "The Unvanquished", a book dedicated to Phil Stone/ We learn, before the summary of the novel, Faulkner loaned money to Stoner. Faulkner loaned him money when the author had none to really give. Then, "The Palms" begins to sell, and then we get a summary of that novel. You see my point: this is a briliant blend of histo ...more
Lauren Albert
A very good biography which makes Faulkner's character sympathetic and very real. It is very readable. It does not attempt to read his fiction as biography though it shows the subtle ways his life and writing intertwine. It is not a book of literary criticism disguised as a biography as so many literary biographies are. He discusses the books but these discussions take a back seat to his narratives of Faulkner's writing of the books and his feelings about public reactions to them. In other words ...more
Mark
Easier reading Parini on Faulkner than reading Faulkner on Lafayette County. (I don't think I could spell the fictional name for wild Bill's native place.) What I learned: Einstein once asked Faulkner, "Where do you get your stories?" Faulkner said, "I hear voices." Einstein smiled and nodded. What else I learned: He had a high-pitched voice, a thirst beyond measure, a love of land and irony, a theme into which he wrote his whole mind's tale. That being the theme of inescapable human struggle. H ...more
Jerry Oliver
This was a wonderful and engaging biography that also included chronological criticism of his work. I really welcomed this because I've only read a couple books by Faulkner but have a desire to read and understand more of this iconic southern writer. Faulkner's stories can be a difficult but very rewarding read and I believe the insight about his life, his background and his geography will make reading his novels all that more enjoyable. Parini did such a good job on this biography that I am loo ...more
Chad Walker
Written in a flowing, literary style, it captures the fun, variety and impressiveness of what Faulkner did, if not exactly the way in which he did it. This was the first Faulkner biography I've read, so I don't know exactly how it stacks up, but it certainly seems to cover all the bases. And it really made me want to go back and reread a bunch of his books, which seems like the biggest praise for any author's biography.
Yeti
Had this one on my bookshelf for awhile. When I finally got around to picking it up, I found myself unable to put it down. Parini provides an in depth psychological portrait of Faulkner the man, and also includes a bit of a critical eye to the individual works that Faulkner published over the course of his career. It's an interesting blend of criticism, biography and history.
Pamela J
Typos and editorial boo-boos aside, Parini's biography is structured for the those familiar with the Faulkner oeuvre. Parini aligns the literature in-progress with the life in-progress, blending both with the scholarship on the man and his writings. Readable. But hope the editors revise the electronic edition ASAP.
Rory
I definitely learned as much as I wanted to know about Faulkner, but this book could have used some more editing. Plus, I found the summaries of each of Faulkner's works way too confusing, which prevented me from understanding the critical analysis of them at all.
Doug
I enjoyed this quite a bit, but didn't like the author's tendency to go through each of Faulkner's novels in detail, plot outline, etc. Those parts were more of a review and I was more interested in the biography part of this biography.
Terri
A true sense of Faulkner as well as his flaws rests in the pages of this well researched and written biography. As a Southerner with ties to Faulkner's home ground, Parini's grasp of his subject is masterful. A book well worth the read.
Mike
This is a good account of William Faulkner's life. I don't care for a lot of Faulkner's writing, but some of it is sublime. Any student trying to learn more about individual stories should certainly reference this book.
W.
A well-written, accessible biography of Faulkner, one rooted in his fiction. I kept leaving "One Matchless Time" on my bedside table to re-read Faulkner, particularly "Go Down, Moses."
Gayla Bassham
Not as detailed as the Blotner but more accessible. Not as good as Parini's bio of Frost, though. Made me want to reread The Sound and the Fury.
Greg
Excellent! Balanced and thoughtful examination of Mr. Faulkner and his work.
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Jay Parini (born 1948) is an American writer and academic. He is known for novels and poetry, biography and criticism.
More about Jay Parini...
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