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Book Review - “WILLIAM FAULKNER: The Cofield Collection”

Fans of Oxford’s literary and photographic history take note: A new softcover edition of “William Faulkner: The Cofield Collection” by Jack Cofield (Yoknapatawpha Press, $32.95) debuted in November 2019. Here is a review of the book by Bob Guccione Jr. that appeared in his online travel magazine, Wonderlust. Guccione taught magazine feature writing at the University of Mississippi in 2010 and has many friends in Oxford.

Written by Bob Guccione Jr. Photos courtesy of Yoknapatawpha Press

In the twentieth century, literature defined the world, in a way emojis and Instagram stories never will. The great writers described the human condition indelibly. And the greatest of all of them — and there were many literary titans in the 1900s, unequalled since — was, in my opinion, William Faulkner.

Faulkner was not a brand, he wasn’t a TV talk show guest and, except for a short lived stint writing scripts in Hollywood, rarely stepped into, and even more rarely sought, the limelight. He lived and wrote almost his entire life in Oxford, Mississippi, his books mainly set in his invented Yoknapatawpha County, around the town of Jefferson, Oxford’s doppelgänger. He was a private man who deliberately kept the long driveway to his house, Rowan Oak, now a museum, in disrepair to dissuade visitors. He didn’t have scandals — actually, he did, but the couple he had were provincial and ran out of gas before the rest of the country heard about them. Other than being pretty much considered America’s Shakespeare, he wasn’t of much public interest.

So this softcover book of photos of him, his family, friends and ordinary life in Oxford, is a testament to a special genius, and an all around historical treasure trove. The photos, taken mostly by Faulkner’s friend J.R. Cofield and his son Jake Cofield, with the rest being family and friends’ intimate snapshots, are not remarkable, but the collection is extraordinary. They are of a time and life long grown over, preserved in amber, an eon before the world became overexposed and so much of its mystery bleached out. With this lovely book you get lost in the plainness and joyfulness of a simpler time, and, if of an age, a bit wistful for it.

Bob Guccione, Jr., founded Spin Magazine and the online travel magazine Wonderlust (wonderlusttravel.com). This review first appeared there, and is reprinted with the author’s permission.

Oxford, Mississippi | United States

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