WILLIAM FAULKNER, the writer, was a familiar figure to many, a gentle, shy and rather reserved man who, though tweedy, managed always, somehow, to appear dapper. He chose to minimize his role as literary genius, preferring to refer to himself as a simple dirt farmer and resident of Oxford, Mississippi, the prototype of the city of Jefferson, which appeared in almost everything he wrote.
But if this William Faulkner was known to many, few ever got beyond that mask to the real Faulkner, a man who clung tenaciously to his privacy, or realized the true degree to which his family and the region that had borne him and molded his character and thinking. Of these, perhaps none knew him so well as his brother, John, himself a writer and as deeply influenced by these same forces.
My brother Bill is little concerned with the public image of William Faulkner; rather it is about Bill Faulkner as a boy, growing up in the environment which furnished him with most of the raw material about which he later wrote, and as a man who retained for all of his life an almost mystical feeling for his native land. It is an intimate portrait, etched deeply with humor, of a man fiercely loyal to his family and old friends, though he often disagreed violently with each of them; of a man steeped in the gamey, Rabelaisian humor of the Frontier, which seems mainly to have survived only in the South; and of a man who both loved and hated his native ground because it never lived up to what he felt it capable of being.
It is a book remarkable not only for its many insights into one of our most significant writers, but for its unique re-creation, in every detail, of the all-but-forgotten life in a southern village at the turn of the century, a picture sketched with rare skill and humor and a deep sense of nostalgia in the best sense of the word.