What's the source of this Faulkner quote?
September 8, 2012 12:22 PM   Subscribe

William Faulkner famously said, "The best fiction is far more true than any journalism." But where the heck did he actually say this? Does anyone know the book or article or interview where this quote originated?
posted by Dr. Send to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
From what I can tell, it seems like an instance of Hunter S. Thompson famously paraphrasing Faulkner for the jacket copy for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:

"More or less…and this qualifier is the essence of what, for no particular reason, I’ve decided to call Gonzo Journalism. It is a style of “reporting” based on William Faulkner’s idea that the best fiction is far more true than any kind of journalism—and the best journalists have always known this."

I'll poke around a little more and see if I can find any Faulkner quotes that get at the same idea.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 1:14 PM on September 8, 2012

It seems as though this is a paraphrase of something that first appeared in The Charlottesville Daily Progress:

"Novelist William Faulkner told prospective journalists and writers at Albemarle High School this morning that the one 'hard and fast rule' every writer must follow is truthfulness.

'I will never put on paper and release something that I do not believe is true,' the Nobel Prize winner in literature said."

Go here; look at the 8 May 1957 article.
posted by munyeca at 1:26 PM on September 8, 2012

There are couple of quotations regarding facts and truth attributed to Faulkner, like, "A writer is congenitally unable to tell the truth and that is why we call what he writes fiction" (I've often seen this attributed to Moliere) and, "Facts and truth really don't have much to do with each other" but I couldn't find a source for them and neither could Wikiquote contributors.

In The Town (1957), Faulkner wrote:

"The poets are wrong of course […] But then poets are almost always wrong about facts. That's because they are not really interested in facts: only in truth: which is why the truth they speak is so true that even those who hate poets by simple and natural instinct are exalted and terrified by it." (The Town, 1957)

And Robert Hamblin's essay in A Cosmos of My Own: Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha has some quotes from Faulkner, including one disparaging Steinbeck for being "just a reporter, a newspaper man, not really a writer." And also saying "the artist's prerogative . . . is to emphasize, to underline, to blow up facts, distort facts in order to state a truth." Both of those are on page 11, which the link should take you right to.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 1:37 PM on September 8, 2012

Eleanor Roosevelt wrote: “The reason that fiction is more interesting than any other form of literature, to those who really like to study people, is that in fiction the author can really tell the truth without humiliating himself.”
posted by Carol Anne at 1:55 PM on September 8, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you all for your help! I was familiar with the H. S. Thompson quote, which is what got me started on this, but it sounds like it was his paraphrase that got ascribed to Faulkner. No best answer (yet), but honourable mention to radiomayonnaise for all the legwork.
posted by Dr. Send at 1:54 PM on September 9, 2012

It's similar to what Aristotle says in the Poetics: "Poetry, therefore, is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history: for poetry tends to express the universal, history the particular."
posted by dd42 at 4:49 PM on September 9, 2012

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