Faulkner’s People: A Complete Guide and Index to the Characters in Faulkner
by Robert W. Kirk, by Marvin Klotz
California, 354 pp., $5.95
One evening recently, while looking for the apartment of friends in a large West Side building, I accidentally entered a wrong door, and so chanced upon a rather curious literary soirée. The guests—middle-aged professorial types for the most part, and women of a clever, brittle stamp—were so absorbed in an entertainment of some kind that they failed to notice my arrival. The room was dead quiet as the assembled guests gazed with breathless intensity at two central figures, one of whom held a large open book in his lap.
“Manny Hughes,” he said then in a voice hushed with drama, and he gave a narrow, searching look to the man sitting opposite—he who quickly lowered his eyes as though hearing a terrible indictment, while the crowd around him murmured enigmatically. This man—whom I recognized, incidentally, as a fairly prominent literary critic—then underwent a metamorphosis before our very eyes. Where a moment previous he had appeared the essence of confidence and savoir-faire, he now seemed to be experiencing the kind of torturous, almost insane, confusion which might accompany the gradual entrance of a marlin-spike through the top of the head.
Here was a sinister business, and one not wholly to my taste.
“What the devil’s going on?” I demanded of a chap nearby.
His answer came in a hiss of admonishment to keep quiet: “Wofpit!”
For the moment I misunderstood his reply, quite naturally I think, to be “Wolf Pit!” So then, here was a sinister business indeed! Wolf Pit! I took a drink to steady myself and cast another glance at the poor wretch in the “Pit” (as I supposed they must call his peculiar status at the moment); his face had gone ashen now and seemed to assume the texture of softening wax. His lips trembled, his teeth chattered, he opened his mouth to speak but the sound was a grotesquely uncertain “aaacchh.” Then, with an effort of will which can only be likened to certain instances of behavior at Dunkirk, his tanned and sensitive hands tightening on the Chippendale armrest to the appearance of white marble, the sinews lacing his neck like pulsating cables, he mastered himself enough at last to speak—in the curious rote of a wooden doll: “Is it…the white night watchman of the mill where Rider works? From Pantaloon in Black? First pub—” But he broke off abruptly under the contemptuous stare of his tormentor (the “Wolf”) and the sly snickers of several guests.
A tight little smile played at the inquisitor’s lips as he wagged his head with feigned patience. “Hardly,” he said, then read from his big book: “Manny Hughes is the postmaster in Blizzard, Arizona. He makes the letters containing money which Crump sends to the woman at Siugut look as if they come from her husband. From Idyll in the Desert, 1931, limited signed edition of 400 copies. Random House.”
The man in the “Pit” smashed a hand to his brow, as …