Dry September by William Faulkner


“THROUGH THE BLOODY September twilight, aftermath of sixty-two rainless days, it had gone like a fire in dry grass: the rumor, the story, whatever it was. Something about Miss Minnie Cooper and a Negro. Attacked, insulted, frightened: none of them, gathered in the barber shop on that Saturday evening where the ceiling fan stirred, without freshening it, the vitiated air, sending back upon them, in recurrent surges of stale pomade and lotion, their own stale breath and odors, knew exactly what had happened. “

~William Faulkner, from Dry September

RickLynching was far too common in 1931 and it was worse in the south. Almost 100 years after the Civil War, the division of whites and blacks was almost absolute with power tipped entirely to one side. This dynamic fueled a lot of literature including To Kill a Mockingbird and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (and many others). In one of his shortest works, Faulkner tips his hat to Hemingway by telling a ghastly story without telling it at all. The act itself is implied but never described and the horror is left to the theater of the mind.

This story is a masterpiece.

In mining the hearts of the principle characters from counter balancing points of view, Faulkner drives us from effect to cause and strips bare the tragic talons of hate and fear dug deep into the souls of the characters. Even now it resonates and reading is impossibly subjective.

We are there and we are horrifically present and complicit.

John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.


faulkner_silver(1897–1962). The novels of American author William Faulkner rank among the most important books of the 20th century. For them he was awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature. Faulkner wrote mostly about his hometown of Oxford, in Lafayette county, Mississippi. In his fiction the place was renamed Jefferson, in Yoknapatawpha county. The time in various stories ranges from pre–Civil War days to the early 1960s. People of all sorts—wealthy and poor, evil and good, slave and free—come into sharp focus in his writing.

“Faulkner, William,” Compton’s Encyclopedia (Chicago, IL: Compton’s Encyclopedia, 2015).

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Rick Wilcox

Editor in Chief | Literary Life