Saturday, May 16, 2015

"Landing in Luck" was William Faulkner's first published short story. Appearing in the November 26, 1919 issue of The Mississippian, a literary magazine at the University of Mississippi, "Landing in Luck" tells the story of Cadet Thompson, who is sent on a solo flight without adequate instruction. Thompson lands successfully, and his flight instructor, Bessing, takes credit for the fine job he did of teaching the cadet pilot. It is a fictional exaggeration based on Faulkner's experience as a cadet-pilot for the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1918.

The story is mainly notable because it is the first published piece of fiction by a novelist who became a Nobel Laureate in literature. Opinion varies on its quality; biographer Stephen B. Oates calls it "amusing", while another biographer labels the story "generic" and "without real depth".


Landing in Luck

Interpretations of the story vary widely. Parini finds the story "about a young man's false sense of accomplishment" and ascribes Thompson's feelings to Faulkner's "inner doubt"; the author, according to Parini, must have had the "feeling that the world sees more in him than he actually possesses". Frederick R. Karl says the story "establishes Faulkner as a teller of tall tales, a vivid and significant part of his artistic imagination and a centerpiece of his ludic imagination". It also is significant because in it, Faulkner sheds the "artificial language" that mars much of what he wrote as a young man.

The comic elements in the story foreshadow the humorous elements Faulkner often included in even his most serious fiction. The story also shows Faulkner's ability to spin the stuff of everyday life into an interesting tale. As a cadet-pilot, Faulkner probably never even flew a plane; his RAF unit was disbanded early in his training because World War I ended.


Landing in Luck


Landing in Luck
  • Karl, Frederick R. (1989) William Faulkner: American Writer. Weidenfeld and Nicolson.
  • Parini, Jay. (2004) One Matchless Time: A Life of William Faulkner. Harper Perennial.
  • Oates, Stepehen B. (1987)William Faulkner: The Man and the Artist. Parper Perennial.

Landing in Luck
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