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September 25: William Faulkner’s Birthday

It’s William Faulkner’s Birthday. Born in rural Mississippi in 1897, he was raised in an environment where you didn’t shuffle into a liquor when you needed some booze, but rather pay a visit to one of many local moonshiners. When asked if he drank while he wrote some of America’s finest short stories and novels, Faulkner coyly replied, “Not always.” When asked to name the tools he needed for his trade, he listed, “paper, tobacco, food, and a little whiskey.” Of course, his idea of what qualified as “a little whiskey” was entirely relative. The scion of a long distinguished line of drunkards, Faulkner began his drinking career sipping moonshine at the precocious age of seven. Later, while attending Ol’ Miss, the poor but resourceful student managed to ease down a quart of bourbon a day. It helped him to concentrate on his studies, he informed classmates. Later in life, Faulkner would self-prescribe bourbon as a sure cure for a great many ailments, including sore throat, bad back, shyness and “general malaise.” Proud son of the South that he was, Faulkner preferred bourbon, particularly Old Crow, but was willing to compromise: “Between scotch and nothing,” he famously remarked, “I’ll take scotch.” During Prohibition, of course, there existed a very liberal idea as what passed for scotch. In his neck of the woods, it usually meant raw white liquor flavored with creosote, an oily distillate of wood or coal tar. Lord have mercy. Top quote: “There’s no such thing as bad whiskey. Some just happen to be better than others.”

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