Joan Williams said it best herself when confronted with William Faulkner’s curious and cutting response to a book-jacket-blurb request from her editor. “It was obviously,” she said, “a very petulant kind of thing. Why couldn’t he have just given me a nice quotation?”

Yet she knew why. For five years, 1949 to 1953, Williams and Faulkner experienced an ongoing tug of war over the personal and professional. Faulkner tried the personae of mentor, father figure, and literary conduit in an effort to have a love affair that trumped the other roles. Williams at 20 was no match for Faulkner at 50. She knew she had much to gain in the literary world from his affection and attention — and much to learn from him about the craft — but her reluctance to have sex with Faulkner made a sustainable love affair impossible.