William Faulkner left a legacy which ripples can be found in even today’s pop culture. The Center for Faulkner Studies documents when Faulkner is referenced across all media.
Report a Faulkner Sighting!
Unlike famous fellow Mississippian Elvis Presley, William Faulkner is probably more likely to be cited than sighted. But like The King, Faulkner is still very much a part of our collective memory and often acts as a point of reference in pop culture venues like movies and television shows.
For example, the 1992 movie Barton Fink is thought by many to contain numerous references to Faulkner's life. The character of the Southern novelist turned screenwriter, W. P. Mayhew, resembles Faulkner in that he sells-out to Hollywood, drinks a great deal, and has an affair while living in CA. And Barton Fink himself has something in common with Faulkner; both were asked to write a "wrestling picture." It helped that the actor who played Mayhew (John Mahoney) bore a striking resemblance to Faulkner. Joel Coen, who co-wrote the film with his brother, Ethan, claimed, "[John Mahoney] really does resemble Faulkner, physically. . .Although, the character in Barton Fink, obviously--outside of the physical resemblance and the fact that he's an alcoholic--he really doesn't resemble Faulkner very much in any other respect." We should hope not--one of the subplots of the movie revolves around the fact that Mayhew isn't really a writer at all. His secretary is the creative genius behind his famous name. And Faulkner didn't even have a secretary in Hollywood. Or did he????
Send your sighting to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the documentary Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, the band’s lead singer, Geddy Lee, can be see reading a copy of The Sound and the Fury during an airplane trip. (submitted by Wes Martin)
In the Cheers episode “Personal Business” (Season 2, Episode 3, 1992), Diane is waiting on a table and says to the customers, “Dylan Thomas, Delmore Schwartz, Fitzgerald, Faulkner . . . they all virtually drank themselves to death, gone before their time . . . so can I get you another round? (submitted by Kristi Rowan Humphreys)
On Saturday Night Live (season 42, episode 8), the episode opens with Aidy Bryant teaching a high-school literature class. She begins the scene by saying, “And that is another example of how Faulkner influenced Latin-American literature.” (submitted by Kristi Rowan Humphreys)
In the pilot episode of the Netflix series You, Joe Goldberg is working in a bookstore. As he watches a customer shop for a book, he says to himself, “You search the books. Fiction F through K. Now, you’re not the standard insecure nymph hunting for Faulkner you’ll never finish.” (submitted by Kristi Rowan Humphreys)
In 2019, a 30-minute Faulkner documentary was produced by the University of Mississippi Journalism School.
In the film Gosford Park (2001), when Morris Weissman is sitting on his bed and speaking to Henry Denton, Light in August is turned over on the bed, as the book he is currently reading. (submitted by Kristi Rowan Humphreys)
In the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), principal Ed Rooney quotes Faulkner’s If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem (The Wild Palms), saying “Between grief and nothing, I’ll take grief” to Ferris’s girlfriend Sloane, believing her grandmother has just died
On his show Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough compared his difficulty understand Donald Trump’s speaking to his difficulty understanding Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying in high school.
Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC show Morning Joe, compared Donald Trump’s 2017 New York Times interview to “William Faulkner on acid”
A trailer for War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) uses Charlton Heston’s voice reciting lines based on Faulkner’s Nobel Prize speech as a way to connect the film to the original 1968 Planet of the Apes.
A new Faulkner documentary appears to be in the works and has begun filming.
A documentary about musician and Faulkner relative John Murry is in the works. Murry is the adopted son of Tom Murry of Tupelo, MS, and Tom is the grandson of Dr. Charles Miller Murry, Sr. ("Dr. Charlie") of Ripley who was the half-brother of William Faulkner's grandmother Sallie Murry Faulkner.
On the FOX Network’s comedy Bob's Burgers Season 1 Episode 10 (“Burger War”) the Burger of the Day on the menu board in the background is “The Sound and the Curry Burger” (which you can cook for yourself at home).
Malaysian film director U-Wei Haji Saari’s 1995 film Kaki Bakar (The Arsonist) is based on Faulkner’s “Barn Burning.” It was the first Malaysian film to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival.
A 2018 Iranian film, As I Lay Dying, by director Mostafa Sayyan included in the Venice Film Festival is loosely based on Faulkner’s novel.
The police detective in the 2017 film Suburbicon is named Gail Hightower. Clearly, this is not a coincidence because the screenplay is coauthored by the Coen brothers of Barton Fink/“W. P. Mayhew” fame. (submitted by Jay Watson)
In The Golden Girls episode “Dorothy’s New Friend” (Season 3, Episode 15), Dorothy invites a local author to the house. Rose says, “I’ve never met a real author before,” and Blanche responds, “I have; I once stood in line two hours at a bookstore for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autograph.” Dorothy says, “Ya know, when I think of great literary figures of our time, it’s usually . . . uh . . . Faulkner, Fitzgerald, and . . . Schwarzenegger.” (submitted by Kristi Rowan Humphreys)
An episode of the ABC shoe The Good Doctor (Season 2, Episode 17) that originally aired March 4, 2019 includes the following conversation between two doctors.
In the horror film Trilogy of Terror (1975), English professor Julie Eldrich talks with her student Chad after class, saying, “That scene in Sanctuary where Faulkner has this character Popeye rape the girl . . . I prefer Fitzgerald. He only suggests violence.” Chad responds, “Faulkner was just telling it like it is.” (submitted by Kristi Rowan Humphreys)
An episode of The Simpsons (Season 7, Episode 2 “Radioactive Man”) has bartender Moe Szyslak reminisce about his days as a child actor on The Little Rascals, saying “William Faulkner could write an exhaust pipe gag that’ll really make you think.”
On the first season of the USA Network show Colony (2016), a character tells her son he will be homeschooled and when he asks what he’ll be doing she replies, “You’re going to be reading a lot of Faulkner.” The character’s bar, “The Yonk,” is a reference to Yoknapatawpha County. (submitted by Branimir Rieger)
On a 2016 episode of NCIS: New Orleans (Season 2, episode 14), a character is dressed as Faulkner in a Mardi Gras-themed episode (submitted by Branimir Rieger)
A short film from writer/director Drue Metz, titled "A Gentleman Always," which stars Jean Elie and Myles Cranford is inspired by The Reivers.
In the Acknowledgements to his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings, Marlon James mentions Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying as a possible inspiration (each chapter in James’ novel is narrated by a different character). Writing of his difficulties with starting the novel, James notes: “The problem was that I couldn’t tell whose story it was. Draft after draft, page after page, character after character, and still no through line, no narrative spine, nothing. Until one Sunday, at W.A. Frost in St. Paul, when I was having dinner with Rachel Perlmeter, she said what if it’s not one person’s story? Also, when last did I read Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying?” (687). (submitted by Hugh Ruppersburg)
The Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters selected The Past is Never by Tiffany Quay Tyson as its winner of the 2019 award for fiction. Tyson is a native of Jackson, Mississippi, and her novel is a family saga set in the Mississippi Delta.
Sean Carswell’s 2019 novel Dead Extra references Faulkner’s Sanctuary when some of the characters meet a scriptwriter named Bill in the 1940s in L os Angeles.
The story of Faulkner’s involvement with satirical publications mocking segregation is told in this 2019 article in Atlas Obscura.
J.J. Murphy’s novel Murder Your Darlings (2011) is an Algonquin Round Table mystery in which the chief murder suspect of one of Dorothy Parker’s guests is William Faulkner.
Gavin Stevens and Atticus Finch are contrasted by attorney and law professor Randy Gordon in a column for The Dallas Morning News.
Bruce Jentleson invokes Faulkner in a 2020 commentary on US foreign policy, “Burying and Unburying History: American Strategy in a Faulknerian World.”
McSweeney’s published a satirical list of the winners and winning words in the Yoknapatawpha County Spelling Bee.
Stephen Wood published the parody “As I Sat Writing — From the Autobiography of William Faulkner” in McSweeney’s in 2010
A Sports Illustrated article on the resignation of Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze invokes Faulkner.
The Harvard Gazette tells the story of the Quentin Compson plaque on a bridge on the Charles River in Boston.
An article in USA Today on college football in the South begins and ends with references to Labove’s football heroics in The Hamlet.
Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying is invoked in this Huffington Post piece about Hurricane Harvey in 2017
Toni Morrison in the New Yorker discusses Faulkner, Hemingway, and colorism.
McSweeney’s published a satirical list, “Wittgenstein Does Faulkner.”
Marco Kaye published the parody “As I Lay Buying” in McSweeney’s in 2012.
In Garden & Gun magazine (October/November 2017 issue) Roy Blount, Jr. discusses Faulkner, farming, and college football.
A satirical column in The Washington Post, “If Male Authors Described Men in Literature the Way They Describe Women,” includes a Faulkner entry.
A story about the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened in 2018 in Montgomery, Alabama, details connections between Faulkner’s Lucas Beauchamp and real-life lynching victim Elwood Higginbotham.
Haruki Murakami’s short story “Barn Burning,” first published in The New Yorker in 1992, is inspired by Faulkner’s story of the same name. A film version of Murakami’s story by Korean director Chang-dong Lee titled Beoning (Burning) was released in 2018 and was one of the top-reviewed films at the Cannes Film Festival.
Historian James C. Cobb discusses Faulkner in revisiting Time magazine’s coverage of the South in the 1960s.
The “ghost of William Faulkner” is quoted in this satirical piece about the University of Mississippi choosing a new mascot.
In John Grisham's 2018 novel, The Reckoning, set in the 1940s, one of the main characters reads Faulkner novels, and his son, a law student at Ole Miss, briefly speaks with Faulkner in The Mansion, a restaurant just off the Oxford Square, where Faulkner frequently dined. (submitted by Robert Hamblin)
In Minrose Gwin's novel, Promise (2018; set in 1936), a high school English teacher, Alice McNabb, “sneaked in a story from The Forum magazine by some crazy writer from over in Oxford, Bill Somebody, about an old woman killing her boyfriend and then sleeping, sleeping in the bed, with his icky, stinky, putrefied corpse for a good long time. Alice, moreover, had read the story out loud, the latter getting her in deep you-know-what with not only the principal but also the school board” (303). (submitted by Robert Hamblin)
A 2014 New Yorker article, “Screenwriting Isn’t Writing,” compares Faulkner’s and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s experiences as screenwriters in Hollywood.
Writer John Rechy uses the opening of "A Rose for Emily" to discuss his approach to writing in an article from The Atlantic.
The Snopes clan is used in this article about corruption and neoliberal economics by journalist/writer Chris Hedges.
A November 2016 article in The Atlantic applies Faulkner’s words and ideas to contemporary American challenges.
A Washington Post profile of the president of ESPN, John Skipper, ends with a story about a trip to Rowan Oak and Faulkner’s grave.
An SB Nation article uses Faulkner and Hemingway to compare NFL rookie quarterbacks in 2016.
The novel, Absalom’s Daughters (2016), is a reworking of Faulkner’s novel with black and white sisters at the center.
Online magazine The Millions ran a 2016 feature titled “The Ultimate Literary Cage Match: Hemingway vs. Faulkner vs. Trump”
Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! is invoked in a column about the disappearance of the period in text messaging and text-speak.
A Time magazine article from 2016 uses Faulkner to discuss Donald Trump, racism, and the KKK.
Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury is included in this Grizzlies Book Club, in which members of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies are compared to famous novels.
Faulkner’s story “The Tall Men” is invoked in this piece about how bureaucracy is killing teaching.
The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, referred to Polish suggestions that Russia may have planted a bomb on the Polish president’s plane in 2010 with a reference to Faulkner’s fictional world: “This reinvestigation and its interim results have become the Yoknapatawpha County for today’s Poland. It is a reality based on make-believe.”
Newt Gingrich quoted and praised Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech in a column about maintaining hope at the end of 2020.
Sen. John McCain cited Faulkner’s Nobel Prize speech during his speech at the 2017 Munich Security Conference
Vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine quoted Faulkner in his 2016 post-election speech.
Composer Reinaldo Moya’s album Hearing it Get Dark (2020) is inspired by The Sound and the Fury, with movements titled “Walking Shadow,” “Clocks That Slay Time,” and “She Smelled Like Trees.”
Country rocker Sturgill Simpson released a new album in 2019 called Sound and Fury, which may or may not be a Faulkner reference.
French guitarist Richard “Heldon” Pinhas released an album in 2020 called Quentin Compson (Bam Balam Records) featuring the song “La ferme de lumieres/Quentin Compson.”
The Snopes Family Band, from Greenville, S.C., takes its name from Faulkner’s fictional clan.
Pam Tillis’s 1991 country-pop hit “Maybe It Was Memphis,” written by Michael Anderson, contains the lines “Read about you in a Faulkner novel/Met you once in a Williams play.”
The 2019 album Riverland, by Eric Brace, Peter Cooper, and Thomm Jutz, is a folk music concept album of songs about Mississippi, including a song about Faulkner’s screenwriting called “It Might Be Hollywood,” a song about the 1927 Mississippi River flood, and a song from Faulkner’s point of view, “As Far as I Can See,” that includes the chorus “California’s far away/And as far as I can see/Mississippi is where I’m supposed to be”
“Faulkner, Interracialism and Popular Television,” a course at Harvard University taught by Linda Chavers in 2018 pairs the works of Faulkner and television writer-producer Shonda Rhimes.
NPR's All Things Considered radio program visited Rowan Oak in 2017 and talked with curator Bill Griffith.
Joyce Carol Oates provoked angry reactions after she tweeted about Faulkner in reference to a Mississippi school board banning To Kill a Mockingbird.
A bar called Fitzgerald and Faulkner opened in Graham, North Carolina in 2017.
Faulkner’s pipes can now be replicated with a 3D printer, thanks to folks at the University of Virginia scanning them and making the data available.
Ole Miss Theatre and Film, a student group at the University of Mississippi, staged a reading of “The Marionettes,” possibly the first onstage portrayal since Faulkner was a part of the same theatre group in the early 1920s.
An Italian avant garde theater group is named Dewey Dell, after the As I Lay Dying character.
McSweeney’s website published a mock list of “William Faulkner’s Favorite April Fool’s Day Pranks” in 2010. (submitted by Kristi Rowan Humphreys)
Faulkner’s grandson, Paul Summers III, runs a vineyard in Virginia that takes its name from Faulkner’s Knight’s Gambit
Chef John Currence’s Oxford restaurant Big Bad Breakfast features menu items named after local writers and their works, including a hamburger called Burgsalom, Burgsalom!
The comic book DC Universe: Rebirth #1 (2016) references The Sound and the Fury, particularly Quentin’s relationship with time.
The Chief Justice of Kenya, Willy Mutunga, quoted Faulkner in a Tweet condemning the teargassing of protestors.
Merle Haggard once wanted to buy Rowan Oak, according to former University of Mississippi Chancellor Robert C. Khayat.
A marionette show version of As I Lay Dying was created and performed at PushPush Theater in Decataur, Georgia in 2007.
A food truck called Yoknapataco opened in Oxford in 2015.