Every Day by the Sun: A Memoir of the Faulkners of Mississippi
Dean Faulkner Wells
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In Every Day by the Sun, Dean Faulkner Wells recounts the story of the Faulkners of Mississippi, whose legacy includes pioneers, noble and ignoble war veterans, three never-convicted murderers, the builder of the first railroad in north Mississippi, the founding president of a bank, an FBI agent, four pilots (all brothers), and a Nobel Prize winner, arguably the most important American novelist of the twentieth century. She also reveals wonderfully entertaining and intimate stories and anecdotes about her family—in particular her uncle William, or “Pappy,” with whom she shared colorful, sometimes utterly frank, sometimes whimsical, conversations and experiences.
This deeply felt memoir explores the close relationship between Dean’s uncle and her father, Dean Swift Faulkner, a barnstormer killed at age twenty-eight during an air show four months before she was born. It was William who gave his youngest brother an airplane, and after Dean’s tragic death, William helped to raise his niece. He paid for her education, gave her away when she was married, and maintained a unique relationship with her throughout his life.
From the 1920s to the early civil rights era, from Faulkner’s winning of the Nobel Prize in Literature to his death in 1962, Every Day by the Sun explores the changing culture and society of Oxford, Mississippi, while offering a rare glimpse of a notoriously private family and an indelible portrait of a national treasure.
From the Hardcover edition.
last college baseball home game was in May 1931. Murry, who was Dean’s number one fan, was in the stands bellowing encouragement. In his usual bullheaded way, without waiting for athletic department approval, he had designed the first Ole Miss baseball letter and ordered a batch to hand out at an M-Club meeting. (Forget about The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying; his youngest son was about to become an Ole Miss letterman!) Ole Miss was playing Louisiana State University, whose Tigers were
pregnant. When she broke the news to Dean, he was delighted. “Now you don’t have to drive anymore,” he said. “Before long, I’ll have that boy to come pick me up.” She continued to fly with him, however, for two more months. After November 1, the doctor warned, she would be grounded. William came up for a weekend in October. He and Dean decided to fly to Clarksdale and see their brother John. William had had a good amount to drink when he got there, so Dean flew the plane. After they were
enemies. We seemed to have known each other forever. Vicki’s mother was Victoria Franklin, my aunt Estelle’s daughter by her first husband, Cornell Franklin. Victoria had been born in Honolulu. Her amah called her “Cho Cho,” Chinese for butterfly. Cho Cho looked like Vivian Leigh, black hair pulled back into a chignon and green eyes, a stunningly beautiful woman with delicate features and an ample bosom. With her narrow shoulders, small hands and feet, she could have been Asian. Vicki’s father
losing him—not to Estelle but to Jill. In a sad, gentle, self-effacing way she observed that Pappy’s love for Jill was what kept him from leaving Estelle. She spoke of her only visit to Oxford. She’d been working on the film The Reivers, shot in Carrollton, Mississippi, sometime after Pappy died. One afternoon, after being assured that Estelle was in Charlottesville, she and a friend drove to Oxford and visited St. Peter’s Cemetery. She went to Pappy’s grave alone and said good-bye. Because Aunt
whiskey and wine flowed and the food was extraordinarily good, Pappy was caught up in a conversation with a retired general and his attractive wife and daughter about his experiences in WWI. Expecting a repeat of the “silver plate in the head” story, I had moved away from the group surrounding him when they exploded into laughter. “What a wonderful joke. Tell it again, please, so everyone can hear. Hurry up, y’all.” A young man shouted, “Pappy” (as he was to everyone that evening) “is going to