When my horse is running good, I don’t stop to give him sugar.
What does Faulkner mean? Does it mean he loved horses and put them everywhere in his work? Or maybe it means your writer and your editor should be far away, divorced, like badly divorced (is there another way?)—like not even in the same city anymore. Writer is writing, editor don’t come around with sugar cubes, don’t come around at all, until later, when the draft is in the stable, then bust out the brush, mane conditioner, and oats. Like maybe you should wait an hour, a day, or maybe even just a dinner before you go and look at a fresh draft…Or, maybe that is not what is meant at all. Maybe Faulkner is saying the working writer doesn’t need sugar, ever. Write to write. Maybe most working writers should be like Woody Allen, a man who has never seen–outside of the editing room–any of his own films. Let’s forget the sugar. When you are “running good” don’t fuck with it, period. Don’t make coffee, don’t surf the net. Don’t even feel excited (a form of sugar). Just run. Run, run, run, until it’s not so good. Maybe?
As Justin pointed out, the New York Times reports today that the Mississippi plantation diary of a wealthy slave-owning Mississippian has been found that Faulkner consulted often to find names and incidents to use in his work. The son of Faulkner’s friend recalls that when reading the diary, “Faulkner became very angry. He would curse the man and take notes and curse the man and take more notes.”
I can relate.
For about three years, I worked on a never-finished manuscript about my mother’s family. While I went back and forth, for part of the time I wrote it as a fictionalization, so I made up new names for all my relatives. To help, I consulted a family genealogy book called The Descendants of Robert Kay. Robert Kay was my great-(x7 or 8)-grandfather on the side of my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother, one Miss Viola Verona Kay King (pictured: one of her sons). Robert Kay was himself a wealthy, slave-owning cotton farmer in the 18th century. The first few pages of the book tell about how he came to Anderson County, South Carolina (where my mother grew up) from Virginia.
All sides of my family have lived in the South as far back as anyone can trace. But it’s one thing to figure that my ancestors probably owned slaves, and quite another to see a list like the one unceremoniously provided on page 9 of The Descendants of Robert Kay. Here’s an excerpt from the inventory of his property up for sale:
One Girl Silvia seven years of age $250.00
One Girl Winifred five years of age 150.00
One Girl Delilah 80.00
One Large Iron Pot 5.00
One ditto 3.00
One Pot and Skillet 3.00
One kittle, frying pan, and three pairs of pot hooks 2.75