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Faulkner Under Fire!
by Shawn Fisher

When writer Sam Apple submitted his entry into the annual Faux Faulkner contest he probably wasn’t expecting to win and he certainly wasn’t expecting all the controversy stirred up by his winning piece entitled “The Administration and the Fury.” But when you parody the American President to a character Faulkner refers to as the “idiot,” how you could not expect to raise a few eyebrows is a wonder. 

For the past six years United Airlines magazine, Hemispheres has been sponsoring the Faux Faulkner writing contest that is organized out of the University of Mississippi in Oxford by Larry Wells and his spouse Dean Faulkner Wells’s niece of the late William Faulkner. During the previous years, Hemispheres has published the winning entry in their print magazine, with those entries being a written parody of the author’s body of work. This year’s contest winner was no different, a spoof on Faulkner’s’ The Sound and the Fury that revolved around the current White House Administration. Yet this year, Hemispheres has chosen not to publish the winning entry and have also announced that this would be their last year sponsoring the contest, that has garnered accusations of censorship by the Wells “…it was parody...we felt that shouldn’t be censored,” said Mr. Wells

In his parody, Apple portrays President Bush to the role of the Benjy-the mentally challenged son, with the story unfolding through his eyes as he is being prepared for a press conference by Condoleezza Rice/Condi, Dick Cheney/Dick and Donald Rumsfeld/Rummy. The narration easily leads the readers to regard Bush as an inept little child, such as when Benjy makes an observation about Rice’s character; “Condi wiped some spit on her hand and patted down my hair. Her hand was soft and she smelled like Xerox copies coming right out of the machine.” Apple states that he set about trying to write in Faulkner’s style, he said, the same way a novice guitarist tries to imitate a pro. Another character’s observation about Benjy made him think of Bush and said it was also a lucky coincidence that “Condi” sounds like “Caddy,” Benjy’s beloved sister. Just as Benjy has an olfactory memory of Caddy (she smelled like trees).

In their defense, Hemispheres editor Randy Johnson noted that the decision was made to place the winning entry on their website exclusively in order to attract more attention to the site and that censorship was not the intention. “We are making it available to millions of people,” said Johnson “The number of people who are able to see the website completely stands on its head any charge of censorship.” Johnson also adds the decision to withdraw sponsorship came prior to the winning entry announcement.

Despite Johnson’s argument to the contrary, the story which has been published on both the Hemispheres web-site and Slate an online magazine. Apple’s parody has received a lot of back lash from Bush supporters who seemingly fail to understand the concept of parody. According to The Jewish Week an independent community newspaper Apple has been swamped with hate mail quoting one such person as saying; “I have an idea for a satire, me beating you upside the head with a two-by-four, you commie bastard!!!!!!”

Controversy, not withstanding the Wells claims not to have chosen Apples piece based on the political nature of it rather “because it mirrors the labyrinthine language of the Nobel laureate.” Mr. Wells adds “it was very funny, a brilliant use of ‘The Sound and the Fury… The fact that he substituted Saddam’s gun for a horseshoe Benjy liked to hold - it was hilarious.” None the less the annual contest is now minus one major sponsor. Its entry has failed to see hard copy and its author must now be on the look out for two by four carrying literary critics, possibly all because Apple picked a person whose main job includes defending and upholding the Bill of Rights.



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