Channeling Faulkner: Sperry Marine scribe takes prize

FACETIME- Channeling Faulkner: Sperry Marine scribe takes prize

What does William Faulkner's confounding prose have in common with a user's guide for navigation software? Aside from some arcane terminologies and a basic intent to convey something murky and deep, very little.

Unless, of course, you're comparing the little-known masterpiece "Appendix: The Sound and the Furry" and a manual from Sperry Marine– in which case, what they might have in common is an author.

Michael Edens, supervisor of technical publications at the Charlottesville-based marine electronics company and the 2003 winner of the Faux Faulkner award, is as comfortable in one genre as another.

"There's such a wealth of mannerisms in Faulkner. The prose is unique, the vocabulary is unique," says Edens. " I found it very simple to mimic Faulkner."

The ease with which he channeled the relentless Faulknerian riff in an "Appendix" of the Goldilocks tale snagged the celebrity jury's votes in the annual Faux Faulkner contest, which was founded by Faulkner's niece, Dean Faulkner Wells, and her husband, Larry Wells, of Oxford, Mississippi.

The prize was a July trip to Oxford for the 30th Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference, where Edens delivered his spoof to great acclaim. One celebrated professor in attendance proclaimed the piece one of just two presentations that Faulkner himself would have approved of.

Faulkner's daughter, Jill Summers of Crozet, concurs: "The gentleman is clever, and so many of the contestants' attempts are anything but."

There is much in Edens' parody for Faulkner devotees to love– his assertion that a bear would no more harm sleeping prey "than he would have harmed young Ike McCaslin once he had relieved himself of the compass and the gun." For those with little appreciation for non sequitor genealogical epithets– the end of the same sentence, 133 words long, reads "and I can no longer remember the subject of my sentence."

Edens, a 43-year-old Bristol native, was an English major at Wake Forest who "picked up some electronics along the way" and has been reading Faulkner and writing technical manuals ever since.

Except when he was doing stand-up comedy in LA.

"What I really wanted to do was write for a sit-com," says Edens, "and one of the ways to break in is for someone to see you on stage."

While plenty of people saw him on stage, no one asked him to write for Friends, and eventually Edens accepted a promotion that transferred him from the city of lights to Albemarle County.

Which brings us back to the original question ... one thing that Edens' writing talents clearly do not share with the great man is remuneration.

"I've made about enough money off my creative writing to buy a new suit," he laughs.

But a suit worthy of Colonel John Sartoris himself.

Michael Edens