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In Faulkner's Shadow - A Memoir

In Faulkner's Shadow

A Memoir

By Lawrence Wells
Series: Willie Morris Books in Memoir and Biography

Hardcover : 9781496829917, 272 pages, 52 color and 11 b&w illustrations; 1 chart, August 2020

An amusing, honest, and sympathetic account of literary rivalries and family feuds in Faulkner’s hometown


What happens when you marry into a family that includes a Nobel Prize winner who is arguably the finest American writer of the twentieth century? Lawrence Wells, author of In Faulkner’s Shadow: A Memoir, fills this lively tale with stories that answer just that. In 1972, Wells married Dean Faulkner, the only niece of William Faulkner, and slowly found himself lost in the Faulkner mystique. While attempting to rebel against the overwhelming influence of his in-laws, Wells had a front-row seat to the various rivalries that sprouted between his wife and the members of her family, each of whom dealt in different ways with the challenges and expectations of carrying on a literary tradition.

Beyond the family stories, Wells recounts the blossoming of a literary renaissance in Oxford, Mississippi, after William Faulkner’s death. Both the town of Oxford and the larger literary world were at a loss as to who would be Faulkner’s successor. During these uncertain times, Wells and his wife established Yoknapatawpha Press and the quarterly literary journal the Faulkner Newsletter and Yoknapatawpha Review. In his dual role as publisher and author, Wells encountered and befriended Larry Brown, Barry Hannah, Willie Morris, and many other writers. He became both participant and observer to the deeds and misdeeds of a rowdy collection of talented authors living in Faulkner’s shadow.

Full of personal insights, this memoir features unforgettable characters and exciting behind-the-scene moments that reveal much about modern American letters and the southern literary tradition. It is also a love story about a courtship and marriage, and an ode to Dean Faulkner Wells and her family.


"In Faulkner’s Shadow is a rich memoir about a growing arts community, against which Wells’s marriage to the firecracker niece of William Faulkner, one of the great authors of the twentieth century, is set. Oxford could have easily rested on its artistic heritage, but thanks to boosters like Dean and Larry Wells, it continues to support a vibrant community of writers like those who light up these stories."

- Meredith Grahl Counts, Foreword Reviews

"Lawrence Wells writes with admirable zeal and eloquence about his life in the shadow of the great William Faulkner. I read this with excitement—and learned a great deal. A wonderful read!"

- Jay Parini, author of One Matchless Time: A Life of William Faulkner

"It’s been my great fortune to be friends with both Larry Wells and his late wife, Dean Faulkner Wells. I’ve personally heard these wonderful stories in their kitchen and at their dining room table where William Faulkner edited Absalom, Absalom! Reading them all again here in this volume is as intimate and casual as sitting down in Larry’s kitchen with a bottle of Four Roses. Highly enjoyable and highly recommended for fans of good books, bourbon, and southern lit."

- Ace Atkins, author of The Shameless and Robert B. Parker’s Angel Eyes

"Whenever interesting things happened in the wild and crazy literary planet known as Oxford, Mississippi, Larry Wells was nearby, listening and taking notes. Wells recounts his many memorable encounters with writers with grace, simplicity, and a great sense of humor. It’s like having an old friend tell the stories you always wanted to hear. Highly recommended for fans of Faulkner, Willie Morris, Barry Hannah, and the world of Oxford (southern) fiction."

- Mark Childress, author of Crazy in Alabama and Georgia Bottoms

"In Faulkner’s Shadow is filled with remembrances of my beloved friend, Dean Faulkner Wells, and her feelings for her ‘Pappy,’ William Faulkner, and memories of the Mississippi Mafia, as we writers were called in Hollywood and New York City, especially when we won their awards over and over again. Many thanks to Lawrence Wells, the author and Dean’s widower of nine years, for keeping this time and place alive and filling it with music. This memoir is a must-read for anyone who loves the work of William Faulkner and believes in the legend that is Oxford, Mississippi."

- Ellen Gilchrist, author of A Dangerous Age and Victory Over Japan: A Book of Stories

"A memoir rich in anecdote and Oxford literary lore, including some wild tales you have not heard before if you weren’t there yourself. Wells is the perfect, self-effacing guide in this warm and funny account of a family, a town, and its luminous, pyrotechnic denizens and visitors. In the end, it’s also a poignant love story."

- Brad Watson, author of Miss Jane and The Heaven of Mercury

"This is a remarkable memoir, endearingly personal and astutely literary."

- Kirkus Reviews