What was your personal relationship with Faulkner?
Beginning in 1944 we had quite a correspondence. I wrote him a letter saying I wanted to do a piece about his work. I hoped to meet him. After four or five months he answered from Hollywood. He explained that when he got letters from strangers, first he opened them to see if there was return postage. If there was, he used the stamps. As for the letters, he’d drop them in a drawer and then, he said, every six months or so he’d open the drawer and begin to read the letters. Mine had been luckier; it had only waited in the drawer three or four months. He wrote me that the idea of finishing his career without having attracted any more attention than he had done so far was painful and, yes, he would be grateful to have a long essay written about him, but he didn’t want any personal details included. He wanted to live anonymously. He wrote me in one of his letters that he wanted his tombstone inscribed, “He wrote the books and he died.”
MORE ON STORY (but on a different author, ergo diff perspective):
He’s got hold of a half-truth. Any fiction should be a story. In any story there are three elements: persons, a situation, and the fact that in the end something has changed. If nothing has changed, it isn’t a story. Almost every story, therefore, becomes a fable, because the change is usually for better or worse. And if the reader extends the applicability of this change from a particular set of events to another, then he’s drawn out of the story a fable with a moral. And, of course, every work of fiction involves moral judgments concerning the characters . . . judgments that the author reveals by his style or his choice of details, if in no other fashion.
There is another sense as well in which not only fiction, but all kinds of writing, are moral. Almost every work set on paper involves a choice. The writing of one page might involve hundreds of moral decisions. “Shall I use this word, which easily comes to hand, or shall I stop and search my mind for a slightly better word?” Those are aesthetic decisions which almost always have a moral element. Choosing the hard over the easy is already a moral choice.