“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” —William Faulkner
1 Whatever, Faulkner. Note the emphasis on the first syllable of your name to make it sound just a bit dirtier by suggestion, a bit more epithetic. Is epithetic a word? Probably not, but even hesitating is more consideration than you’ve ever given me, you exhaustingly prolix son of an excessively Southern bitch. Let it go, man, let it go. You’re doing it all to yourself. Move on and use some goddamn periods every once in a while.
2 Some scholars argue that what Faulkner meant to say here was “The paste is never dead. It’s not even paste.” While it seems admittedly improbable that he would have committed the same damning typo twice in such rapid succession, the possibility of his having written it during one of his inebriated (or “blind-drunk”) states is great enough that we cannot quite throw it away. Moreover, in light of the work from which this nugget of hindsighted wisdom was taken—a ninety-page memoir outlining some of the small home repairs he undertook in the summer of 1940 after completing The Hamlet (the same line did appear in Requiem for a Nun, but not until eleven years later)—it does not seem entirely unreasonable that he should have been ranting about paste (the specific chapter in question dealt with a particularly stubborn sheet of wallpaper) and not the past. Both were demons to Faulkner, and though he dwelt more thoroughly on the latter, he was known to spend hours on end holding forth on the merits of certain brands of paste over others. Dr. Charles Etienne de Saint Valéry Smedresman, a leading voice in the field of Faulknerian study, has pointed out that the implications of this new interpretation do not end there: taken in its new context, the modifier “even” also takes on a new meaning: naturally, Faulkner’s wallpapering venture would not succeed as planned, and the sheet would refuse to lay flat (or “die,” as the industry terminology goes), had he not applied the paste evenly. Hence also his adage, “A writer needs four things, experience, observation, imagination, and liberally but evenly applied paste.”
3 That poor man, Faulkner, so visibly haunted by the demons of a past he couldn’t quite come to terms with. Whoever elected him the man to bear on his shoulders the weight of an entire region’s collective skeletons and shameful memories, like the Atlas of the South, certainly picked a great man for the job. Perhaps the price was too high for the man himself, but he has left us with works of such power, such understanding of the burdens of temporal stubbornness and the problems of the social construct that is racial identity, that we can be nothing but grateful.
4 Other scholars have suggested that instead of “past” Faulkner actually meant to write “wisteria,” but that whole school of thought has been dismissed as baseless.