Thanks to novels like The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner isn’t exactly remembered as a lighthearted author. However, a rediscovered play written by the famous scribe shows that Faulkner didn’t just have a talent for dense, postmodernist prose—he also had comedy chops.
Faulkner wrote the one-act work in his early 20s, likely for a college theater group he belonged to at the University of Mississippi. It was found in the University of Virginia's archives by Andrew Gulli, managing editor of a quarterly fiction publication called The Strand Magazine. Called "Twixt Cup and Lip,” the play was recently published in The Strand’s holiday issue. It tells the tale of a Jazz Age woman who’s pursued by two suitors. Typical of the time period, it’s filled with innuendo, cigarettes, and cocktails. It’s also far different from Faulkner’s future writing.
"He's showing a knack for comedy and a knack for dialogue, too," Christopher Rieger, director of the Center for Faulkner Studies at Southeast Missouri State University, told the Associated Press. "You're not seeing the trademarks from his more famous works, although the techniques he's perfecting here would serve him well."
Proving that his early theatrical endeavors weren’t in vain, Faulkner later wrote Hollywood screenplays. However, this particular play is also interesting because Rieger believes it might have been inspired by Faulkner's relationship with his high school girlfriend—and future wife—Estelle Oldham. Pressured by her family to marry another man, Oldham initially devastated Faulkner. In “Twixt Cup and Lip,” he might have wistfully re-imagined her as the lead: a feisty female who knew her own mind—and heart.
[h/t Associated Press]