William Faulkner wrote works of psychological drama and emotional depth, typically with long serpentine prose and high, meticulously-chosen diction.
Like most prolific authors, he suffered the envy and scorn of others and was considered to be the stylistic rival to Ernest Hemingway (his long sentences contrasted to Hemingway's short, 'minimalist' style). He is perhaps also considered to be the only true American Modernist prose fiction writer of the 1930s, following in experimental tradition European writers such as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Marcel Proust, and known for using groundbreaking literary devices such as stream of consciousness, multiple narrations or points of view, and time-shifts within narrative.
Faulkner was born William Falkner (no "U") in New Albany, Mississippi, and raised in and heavily influenced by that state, as well as the general ambiance of the South. Mississippi marked his sense of humor, his sense of the tragic position of Blacks and Whites, his keen characterization of usual Southern characters and his timeless themes, one of them being that fiercely intelligent people dwelled behind the facade of good old boys and simpletons. An early editor misspelled Falkner's name as "Faulkner", and the author decided to keep the spelling.
Faulkner's most celebrated novels include The Sound and the Fury (1929), As I Lay Dying (1930), Light In August (1932), The Unvanquished (1938), and Absalom, Absalom! (1936), which are usually considered masterpieces. Faulkner was a prolific writer of short stories: his first short story collection, These 13 (1931), includes many of his most acclaimed (and most frequently anthologized) stories, including "A Rose for Emily," "Red Leaves," "That Evening Sun," and "Dry September." During the 1930s, in an effort to make money, Faulkner crafted a sensationalist "pulp" novel entitled Sanctuary (first published in 1931). Its themes of evil and corruption (bearing Southern Gothic tones) resonate to this day. A sequel to the book, Requiem For a Nun, is the only play that he has published. It involves an introduction that is actually one sentence that spans for a couple of pages. He received a Pulitzer Prize for A Fable and won a National Book Award (posthumously) for his Collected Stories.
Faulkner was also an acclaimed writer of mysteries, publishing a collection of crime fiction, Knight's Gambit, that featured Gavin Stevens, an attorney, wise to the ways of folk living in Yoknapatawpha County. He set many of his short stories and novels in his fictional Yoknapatawpha County, based on--and nearly identical to in terms of geography--Lafayette County, of which his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi is the county seat; Yoknapatawpha was his very own "postage stamp" and it is considered to be one of the most monumental fictional creations in the history of literature.
In his later years, Faulkner moved to Hollywood to be a screenwriter (producing scripts for Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep and Ernest Hemingway's To Have and Have Not--both directed by Howard Hawks). Faulkner started an affair with a secretary for Hawks, Meta Carpenter.
Faulkner was known rather infamously for his drinking problem as well, and throughout his life was known to be an alcoholic.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1949. He drank shortly before he had to sail to Stockholm to receive the distinguished prize. Once there, he delivered one of the greatest speeches any literature recipient had ever given. In it, he remarked "I decline to accept the end of man...Man will not only endure but prevail..." Both events were fully in character. Faulkner donated his Nobel winnings, "to establish a fund to support and encourage new fiction writers", eventually resulting in the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.
Faulkner served as Writer-In-Residence at the University of Virginia from 1957 until his death in 1962.