This is one of the defining sorrows of books: that we cannot see one another.
A few weeks ago, I discovered that Dean Faulkner Wells died. To the average person, this may not mean so much. But to me, it was like hearing a friend of a friend, a promising acquaintance, had passed. Let me explain: I was reading the collection My Bookstore for review. In his contribution, Jack Pendarvis rambles about Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, treating it as part Dali-esque synesthesia hallucination and part backdrop for Pendarvis’ numerous stories about Barry Hannah. As a side note, he mentions that his neighbor Dean Faulkner Wells, niece to author William Faulkner, had passed in the summer of 2011.
I had never met Ms. Dean Faulkner Wells, but I had read her book, Every Day By the Sun, also for review. I had been transfixed by her charming voice, her moving insights and her frustrations with being the last living link to her famous kin. Her perspective into the changing world of Oxford and her fading family was fascinating me & I wrote a review that betrayed how spellbound I was. She died just a few months after the book was published & while I can’t mourn her the way those who knew her can, I did tear up to hear this singular lady was gone, especially upon realizing how long it had been since her death.
Why had I gotten upset? Because I had shared that timeless connection with her–I had been one of her readers. And while she may not have written something on the same level as her “Pappy,” she had shown me & many others a world and a way of living that is nearly gone. Not only that, she had done it with talent and joy and grace, which is an amazingly humbling gift for those of us in love with the written word. To hear that Ms. Dean Faulkner Wells had died was to come out from under the covers and realize that real life had occurred outside of the pages. Her book was still alive, but she was long gone.
This is the problem with being in love with literature. So much of what I read is still so immediate and vital to me that to run across these real world events are shaking in ways I’m not always prepared for. Yet, I can’t think of any other way I could experience life so deeply. I can only dream that the books I read keep a little part of me with them too once I put them down.