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Aviation Lore in Faulkner.

In the Shadow of Yoknapatawpha Studies lurks another significant part of Faulkner's work, that relating to his interest in aviation. It has been easy to overlook by consigning it to the category of apprenticeship - Soldiers' Pay, or to potboiler short stories - "All the Dead Pilots" - or to lesser novels - a Fable and Pylon.

Robert Harrison seeks to correct this mind-set, pointing out that when Faulkner's wrote of flying it was with a great deal of expertise, yet his references to aviation were mostly incomprehensible to the nonpilot reader. This book is a thoroughly researched redress of this deficiency.

A pilot and a literary scholar, Harrison bridges the two disciplines well. Within the book, he first provides an elementary introduction to aviation and, next, a short biographical sketch tracing Faulkner's interest in flight from the first hot-air balloon that he and his brothers saw in 1908 at the Lafayette County Fair to his last planned flight to Venezuela for a good-will visit in 1961. Finally, the major part of the book is an aviation glossary of Faulkner's works. Approximately 500 of Faulkner's passages are annotated in varying detail, bringing aviation's lore to the general reader. The informative bibliography of secondary sources leads to historical works and background information on aviation during Faulkner's lifetime.

Starting with "Landing in Luck," Faulkner's first story (published in the student newspaper at the University of Mississippi in November 1919) Harrison begins annotation with "the machine," a Curtiss JN known as the Jenny, followed by "headed into the wind" and "instructor in the forward cockpit." From the time of Faulkner's service as an aviation cadet in the Royal Air Force in Canada, he was impressed by the uniforms worn by the fliers, hence "Shiny boots ... backing up strap" are noted to be Savile Row boots, Bedford twill breeches, and Sam Browne belt.

Harrison identifies the names and exploits of World War I aces that Faulkner mentions and who are no longer recognized by most of us ... Immelmann, Guynemer, Boelcke, Voss, Bishop, Fonck, Nungesser, and others. Further, he draws upon a number of authorities of early aviation and special archives for documentation.

As a non-pilot reviewer, I have a small quibble with an entry for "mach." It states: "the speed of sound through a medium. Mach 1 through air at sea level on a standard day is about 730 mph." I prefer the dictionary definition as "a number representing the ratio of the speed of an object to the speed of sound in the surrounding medium, as air, through which the object is moving." An index for the book would have been helpful.
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Author:Walker, L.G., Jr.
Publication:The Mississippi Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1992
Words:435
Previous Article:Faulkner and Race: Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha, 1986.
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