My copy of Contempo has arrived!

Just got here today: my February 1, 1932 edition of Contempo. No, the Post Office wasn’t that slow; I bought it off eBay (and the USPS was right on time).

I ran across this footnote in the life of William Faulkner while attending my daughter’s graduation from UNC last month.  Minter’s 250-page bio, for example, doesn’t even mention that Faulkner visited Chapel Hill, much less that he contributed to this journal, and neither does his Wikipedia entry. The librarian at the university’s Southern Historical Collection, learning of my interest in Faulkner, retrieved their copy from the files, and I bought this one from John LaPine in Chicago (5 stars, by the way).

contempo_front_pageWhat is known is that the author visited Chapel Hill in October for at least three days (there is some controversy over the exact length of his visit), stayed drunk most of the time, and upon sobering up, learned that he had agreed to contribute to this journal, published by a couple of UNC students. It was a most unusual periodical, founded by a couple of young communists who also finagled pieces from such luminaries as George Bernard Shaw, T. S. Elliot, and Sinclair Lewis. The primary owner later moved to New York and became a highly successful stockbroker while never renouncing his left wing views. But that’s another story. (Click for a larger image)

The entire 2/1/1932 edition is credited to Faulkner, who gave the publication some poems and a short story that he hadn’t placed in more prestigious (and profitable) publications. Despite his binges, Faulkner was at the peak of his creative powers, having already published The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying, having the manuscript for Light in August (my favorite) with him, and with his masterpiece Absalom! Absalom! only four years in the future. One of Contempo’s editors presciently wrote that Faulkner was “the most creative, most original and most potential writer that America has produced.” Such an opinion of Faulkner was not widely shared at that time, but 17 years later, he would win the Nobel Prize.

I had been living in Oxford about a year when the author died, so it’s possible that I saw him. I have no such memories, but I do have an original of the February 1, 1932 edition of Contempo and that will have to do.

[Note: the information on Faulkner in Chapel Hill and his association with Contempo is from “A week or 3 days in Chapel Hill: Faulkner, Contempo, and their contemporaries,” Jim Vickers, North Carolina Literary Review, Vol I, No 1, 1992. Available on-line from the NCLR site.]

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