Organized by professor Stephen Railton, who recently played a selection of the tapes at the Faulkner Conference at Ole Miss, the tapes capture Faulkner talking to classes and at public meetings when he was the writer in residence at Virginia late in his life. They were recorded in the late 1950s, just after the Supreme Court ruling outlawing school segregation and before the civil rights movement gained force.
Faulkner talks with wisdom about these and other social issues. For those who love his books, though, the most fascinating part of the tapes is to hear him discuss writing and listen to him reading from his works.
Courteous, funny, courtly, equanimous and learned, Faulkner displays his best character traits in the tapes. Recorded on old-fashioned reel-to-reel equipment by Frederick l. Gwynn and Faulkner biographer Joseph Blotner, the tapes have a few hisses and static, but Faulkner's voice is clear and distinct. Some of the material was used in Gwynn and Blotner's book "Faulkner in the University," but the Web site offers and much more extensive collection.
One interesting trait mentioned by Railton is how comfortable Faulkner is with silence. He waits as long as two or three mintues for a person in his audience to ask a question. Actually, such an ability to remain silent for long periods was a characteristic of Southern men of Faulkner's era. I remember conversations in which an older man would not speak for long periods, comfortable with long silences.
Railton in his talk at Ole Miss asked listeners to the audiotapes to comment on any technical difficulties. The link is http://faulkner.lib.virginia.edu/. Railton's Web site also includes audi archives on Mark Twain, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom."