William Faulkner and the Nobel Prize for Literature


The poet James Galvin once told me this story about when Faulkner won the 1949 Nobel for literature:
There was a cub reporter in Oxford, Mississippi who was nuts about Faulkner, so his editor sent him to tell the great author that he had won the Nobel. The kid, delighted and nervous to meet his hero, drove out to Faulkner’s Rowan Oak house.
He stepped up on the porch and knocked at the screen. Faulkner’s man, immaculate in white jacket and bow tie, answered the door.
“Excuse me,” said the kid. “Is Mr. Faulkner home?”
“Mr Faulkner,”  said the man, “ain’t in just now.”
“Do you know where I can find him?” the kid asked.
“He out there in the field someplace,” said the man, gesturing at a row of distant trees.
The kid set out across the grass and into the woods. As he approached, he heard the sound of thrashing punctuated by occasional curses. He soon came across William Faulkner, pantless, but incongruously wearing a shirt and tie and sock garters. He held a shotgun by the barrel and was swinging it at the weeds. In the other hand he had a half-full quart bottle of beer.
“Mr. Faulkner, sir?” said the kid.
Faulkner stopped his hacking and looked at him.
“Uh..” said the kid. “I’m from the Oxford Eagle.”
“Is that so?” said Faulkner. He pulled at his beer and wiped his mouth with his hand. “Well, what do you want?”
“I came to tell you that you have been awarded the Nobel Prize,” said the kid.
Faulkner continued to stare at him.
“For literature,” said the kid, feeling awkward. This was not going the way he expected.
“That prize,” said Faulkner. “It comes with a cash award too, if I’m not mistaken?”
“Yes sir. I believe it’s two hundred fifty thousand dollars.”
Faulkner raised his eyebrows, looked at the bottle in his hand and pitched it over his shoulder. “Then what the hell am I drinking beer for?”

Don't just stand there.