“Thinking of Home: Falkner House and Rowan Oak,” a 25-minute documentary on Faulkner family life in Oxford directed by Deborah Freeland and produced by Kathleen Wickham, will broadcast on Mississippi Public Broadcasting Nov. 21 at 8 p.m.
“Thinking of home” is a quotation from Faulkner’s novel “As I Lay Dying.”
Narrators Larry Wells, who was married to Faulkner’s niece, Dean, and has lived in Falkner House for over 45 years, and Bill Griffith, curator of Rowan Oak, share family stories, unpublished Faulkner family snapshots, and vintage photographs.
The first segment allows viewers access to the private home, “Falkner House,” while the Rowan Oak segment offers scenes and stories of William Faulkner’s home in Oxford which is open to the public six days a week.
The film begins with exterior footage of Falkner house owned by William’s parents, Murry and Maud Falkner. (William added a “u” to the surname.) Wells states the history of the house built in 1932 on property owned by William Faulkner’s grandfather JWT Falkner. The name “Falkner” can be seen engraved in concrete on a gate-stone with the letter ‘N’ pressed into the wet concrete backward. As a child, William passed this gate-stone daily. In his first book, Marionettes, the author printed the N’s backward.
Wells describes the furnishings and paintings inside the house. Maud Falkner was an accomplished artist. Her defining presence can be seen in the paintings, many of which are of William as a child and her grandchildren Dean and William’s daughter Jill.
In the second half of the film, Bill Griffith, curator of Rowan Oak, explains that Faulkner bought the old Bailey place in 1930 and re-named it for the Rowan tree which according to Scottish legend will protect against sprites and mischievous spirits. Faulkner added “oak” to the name, says Griffith, in order to combine the legendary qualities of the Rowan tree with the strength of the American live oak, though neither tree grows on the property.
Griffith walks the viewer through the house which is owned by the University of Mississippi. He begins with Faulkner’s writing room, or “office,” containing the author’s famous Underwood typewriter. In 1954 Faulkner outlined his novel “A Fable” on the wall. His wife Estelle was planning a dinner party that night, and to her the words painted on the wall were ugly graffiti. Fortunately, for posterity, Faulkner refused to paint over them, and today the office with its hand-printed outline is a literary shrine.
Special to Hottytoddy.com