Life

In Search of Faulkner: A Literary Pilgrimage to the American South

Making a special trip to the south of the United States to visit Mr. William Faulkner’s former residence is a bit crazy for someone who has never been star-struck. At that time, Mr. Faulkner was the brightest star in my literary sky. I must have been attracted by some kind of light.

Transfer in Chicago. I can’t help but smile knowingly when I hear the place names such as Tennessee and Memphis that appear in Faulkner’s works. The sky is transparent, and when you look down through the plane window, you can reach the clear ground. I guess that python-like river is the Mississippi River. The story just flows.

The plane arrived in Memphis. There are huge pictures of Elvis Presley everywhere. I rented a car and drove directly to the University of Mississippi without stopping. The hotel I booked was there, not far from Faulkner’s former residence.

It was my first time to drive in the United States, and I had not touched the steering wheel for ten years. I was excited and nervous, and my palms were sweating. Fortunately, the road is flat and there are few vehicles. I gradually relax and enjoy the plain scenery described by Faulkner leisurely. This driving experience is just like what is shown in the movie. I soon arrived at the University of Mississippi, and was confused by the navigation system. I stopped and asked for directions. A blond student saw that the directions were unclear, so he simply got in the car to lead the way. When he learned that I was Chinese, he actually talked enthusiastically about Yu Hua’s works. I smiled and said that Yu Hua was my master. I came here specifically to visit the former residence of my master’s master.

I checked in at the hotel, took a shower and changed clothes, and drove to my destination. As the car turned into the forest, there was a sense of desolation, unlike the former residence of a writer or a popular tourist attraction. No street signs were found either. Asked the strong man with a red face and white beard on the side of the road, he smiled and said, “I am Faulkner, haha, everyone here is called Faulkner.” After finishing his humor, he pointed to the inconspicuous piece of gravel on the side of the road. The wooden sign, with a little arrow there, points to the Faulkner House.

Nestled among old trees, there is a quiet and silent white house. No tourists. not even one. When I opened the door, the lights dimmed, and a woman in a blue dress smiled at me from behind the ticket counter. Buy tickets. Go upstairs. You can hear your own heartbeat.

A man was lingering in front of the house. There was still no sign of anyone. It’s a bit unreal. A little lonely. Suddenly, a golden retriever dog ran over wagging its tail. I followed it to the backyard and saw a white-haired woman sitting on a chair reading a newspaper. I greeted her, smiled and said it was the dog that brought me here. That’s her dog. She told me that she was Faulkner’s neighbor and liked to bask in the sun here. She was very happy to hear that I was a writer from China and appreciated my traveling alone. She asked me if I knew Stuart, and she said she was his granddaughter-in-law. She immediately invited me to her daughter’s house for tea. It was a typical middle-class American house with a huge swimming pool. Her daughter is a professor at the University of Mississippi. She was also excited about the arrival of a Chinese writer who wanted to introduce me to nearby American writers. She even called Richard Ford, but unfortunately he was in New York at the time.

When I returned to Memphis, I went to Elvis Presley’s Graceland home. Tourists queued up in endless queues. Walking around the streets in the afternoon. Elvis Presley’s music flows in the streets. It’s as if the architecture is dancing too. Even a child over one year old was clicking to the beat and wiggling his buttocks. In this lively and dynamic street, I thought about the phone numbers Faulkner jotted down on the wall and what he was talking about at that time.

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