A few days ago, Letters of Note featured a snarky resignation letter penned by William Faulkner, whose work I admitted to having never read in my post earlier this week, The Classic Question: Why Fake It? In the letter, written in 1924, Faulkner resigns from a postmaster position at Ole Miss. Based on the description on Letters of Note, let’s just say that Faulkner was not a model employee with reports indicating that he wrote portions of his novels on the job and even threw out mail (!).
In his resignation letter, he writes: “… I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.”
If his creative writing were as entertaining and straightforward as this letter, maybe I would have finished one of his novels. Even my husband, raised in Faulkner’s home state of Mississippi, hasn’t finished one. While Faulkner’s convoluted writing style has never appealed to us, we did enjoy the “Faux Faulkner” contest, which ran from 1989 to 2005 and produced some hilarious parodies (The Best of Bad Faulkner includes some of the entries).
I marvel at the audacity of Faulkner’s letter, written before he had established himself as one of America’s greatest authors. I don’t know of too many aspiring authors who would have the guts to write such a letter or risk behaving so poorly at work in the first place. I’m not sure at what point Faulkner was able to live off of his creative work, but he is one of the lucky ones who could give up his day job eventually. Not all authors would want to write full time, but for those who do, it’s unfortunate that few have the option.
*Alternate Title: “William Faulkner: When Work Interferes With Writing.”