Today in 1897, the birthday of William Faulkner, the Nobel Prize winning author of novels like The Sound and the Fury, and, for a few years, one of the most unproductive postmasters the US mail has ever seen.

Faulkner grew up in Oxford, Mississippi, though he wasn’t always in a hurry to grow up.

He technically never finished high school; several times he enrolled at (and several times he dropped out from) the University of Mississippi.

By 1921 he had moved to New York City, where he was working in a bookstore.

But a mentor from home, Phil Stone, lured Faulker back to Mississippi with the offer of a steady job as a campus postmaster.

Faulkner tried to turn him down, but Stone said he basically forced the young writer to take the job anyway.

And he clearly served under protest the whole three years he was on the job.

Actually, saying Faulkner was “on the job” is overstating it.

As postmaster, Faulkner did about as little as he could get away with doing. He opened the office when – and if – he felt like it.

And he closed whenever he wanted to be somewhere else, like a golf course or in search of a drink.

His bosses complained that on those rare occasions he was at the office, he was usually paying more attention to his writing than to any of his official duties.

Customers who came in looking for their mail got in the habit of checking the garbage, because Faulkner was known to toss stuff he didn’t want to deliver.

On the other hand, if he saw something interesting in the mail, he’d help himself to it.

Never mind that it belonged to someone else!

By 1924, the postal authorities had seen enough and demanded that Faulkner account for his mishandling of his post office.

He didn’t admit to any wrongdoing but he also didn’t deny any of the charges.

Instead he wrote a legendary response that said, in part, “I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp. This, sir, is my resignation.”

Faulkner, of course, had much better luck in his next career, writing books.

And in 1987 the US Postal Service issued a stamp in his honor.

For being a writer, not for being a postmaster.

We all have our strong points and our weaknesses!

On this day in 2020, a German rapper calling himself Hans Solo made history by releasing the first full-length hip hop album entirely in Klingon.

They say you haven’t experienced Shakespeare until you’ve read him in the original Klingon…

William Faulkner Was Really Bad at Being a Postman (Lit Hub)

Hans Solo NUQNEH (Upcoming Vinyl)

Not everyone makes a great postmaster, but everybody would make a great Patreon backer for our show

Photo by John Padgett via Flickr/Creative Commons