Dean Faulkner Wells
Dean Faulkner Wells on the day of her firt marriage, shown here at home with her uncle, Nobel Laureate William Faulkner.
A Major Happening in the Literary World:
Every Day by the Sun: A Faulkner Family Memoir
Dean Faulkner Wells, author of the new memoir, Every Day by the Sun: A Faulkner Family Memoir, was born in 1936. She died suddenly on July 27, after suffering a collapsed lung. She was the niece of William Faulkner and the daughter of Dean Swift Faulkner, Faulkner's youngest brother, and Louise Hale. Her father was killed just before she was born in a plane crash in late 1935. Her famous uncle, whom she called "Pappy," raised her as a daugher and entertained her with family stories and other tall tales at home at Rowan Oak. William Faulkner was especially fond of ghost stories, which he told to Dean, his daughter Jill, and his granddaughter Vicki Dean Faulkner Wells. Dean collected these treasured stories and retold retold three of them in The Ghosts of Rowan Oak: William Faulkner's Ghost Stories for Children. Her stories and articles have appeared in Parade Magazine, Ladies Home Journal, and the Paris Review. She also edited The Great American Writers' Cookbook, which was introduced by fellow Mississippi author and journalist Julia Reed, and The Best of Bad Faulkner. She is the author of the children's book Belle-Duck at the Peabody. Wells was educated in Geneva and at the University of Mississippi. She was married to writer Lawrence Wells and together they ran a regional publishing house, Yoknapatawpha Press, named after William Faulkner's mythical county in his Mississippi novels and focusing on southern writers. She lived in Oxford, MS most of her life.
On the Writing of Every Day by the Sun
Remarks by Dean Faulkner WellsAt Reception in Honor, March 27, 2011
Faulkner House, Pirate's Alley, New Orleans
It has taken seventy-plus years for me to summon up the discipline and courage to write about my family. It isn’t easy to write an autobiography when one grew up feeling like a tadpole in a pond with a bull frog named William Faulkner perched on the biggest lily pad. The Faulkners, it’s safe to say, are not “normal.” Over the generations we can claim nearly every psychological aberration: narcissism and nymphomania, alcoholism and anorexia, agoraphobia, manic depression, paranoid schizophrenia. There have been thieves, adulterers, sociopaths, killers, racists, liars, and folks suffering from panic attacks (that’s me) and real bad tempers, though to the best of my knowledge we’ve never had a barn burner or a preacher. The only place we can be found in relative harmony is St. Peter’s Cemetery. Yet there we can’t even agree on how to spell our name. It appears as “FALKNER” on several headstones; in the next plot “FAULKNER”; and one grave marker reads “FA(U)LKNER.”
All of the Faulkners believe in ghosts, and as I got into the writing of this book, relatives long gone rose up. They woke me at all hours of the night. “Tell the part about…” or “You forgot what happened when…” They were relentless and did not leave me in peace once I began writing. But when I hit a stumbling block or became mired in endless details, I would hear Pappy say, “Keep at it. You’ll get it. Remember, if it ain’t mosquitoes, it’s something else.” Although there were not many of us to begin with, we’ve never been a close-knit family. We are prone to “falling-outs,” quick to anger, and slow to forgive. Whereas most families come together at holidays or anniversaries, ours rarely has, at least not in my generation. With the exception of our immediate kin, we’ve been derelict in keeping up family ties.
Pappy tried. On New Year’s Eve in the 1950s, he liked to host small gatherings for family and friends at Rowan Oak. Dressed to the nines, we met shortly before midnight in the library, where magnums of champagne were chilling in wine coolers, and crystal champagne glasses were arranged on silver trays. As the hour approached, Pappy moved about the room and welcomed his guests. When our glasses were filled he would nod at one of the young men standing near the overhead light switch. Then he would take his place in front of the fire. When the lights were out and the room was still, with firelight dancing against the window panes, Pappy would lift his glass and give his traditional New Year’s toast, unchanged from year to year. “Here’s to the younger generation,” he would say. “May you learn from the mistakes of your elders.”
I wish my readers could have been with us at New Year’s at Rowan Oak. This book is my way of taking them there.
Jeff Kleinman of Folio Literary Management, who sold Every Day by the Sun at auction for a major six figure advance, says the book represents a major milestone in Southern literary history. Jeff, who has participated in the Society's Words & Music festival on multiple occasions describes the book this way:
Nobody could have written this book except Dean Faulkner Wells. It is
Marvelously evocative, intimate, and deeply moving…
I can't recall the last time I enjoyed a book as much as Every Day By The Sun. Dean Faulkner Wells has performed a miracle: She’s brought a great man back to life, and in doing so she’s summoned a time and a place that now seem too far gone. I love her clean, sharp, unpretentious prose, the well-hewn stories piled one on top of the other, the intimate revelations about a family that belongs to all of us but belonged to her first. William Faulkner is a fascinating character indeed, but it is Wells herself whom I found most captivating. She’s somebody to fall in love with and never get over.
A fresh, affectionate view of 'Pappy,' the great and difficult writer.