A native of Memphis, Tennessee, I spent the summer after my junior year in college working as a carpenter’s aid on a construction crew at a new suburban apartment complex. My supervisor was from northern Mississippi. At lunch one day I learned that his father had been a hunting companion of a local novelist from Oxford, Mississippi, which was just an hour’s drive away from Memphis. That writer and hunting companion, William Faulkner, had died only a decade earlier. Perhaps unknown to my employer was the fact that his neighbor had won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1949. During our meal on that hot, humid day that is so typical of the Memphis summer, I asked my supervisor about his impressions of Faulkner. His answer? “Those things he wrote about my town in his books were not all true, you know. Don’t believe what you read. He made them up.” I suspect that Faulkner, had he been present at this conversation, would have been very amused. He drew inspiration for the characters in his fiction from people he knew in northern Mississippi (perhaps even including this man’s father), but he was also quite attentive to the tricky and vexed legacy of the past in that part of Mississippi. He also knew very well that memory is selective. Perhaps for that reason Faulkner has always held a special fascination for the historian, even if he was not very popular with some of the locals from around Oxford. Faulkner recognized that there existed inextricable (and often uncomfortable) ties linking the past with the present, connecting the dead with the living. As he once famously wrote, in a quote that is often cited by historians, “The past is not dead. In fact, it is not even past.”1