Veteran novelist and biographer Parini (Robert Frost; The Last Station) crafts a thorough account of the Nobel laureate’s life (1897–1962), pausing with the publication of each book to reprise its plot and critical reception, and add his own evaluation of its merits. This is a reasonable approach, which benefits from the insights of such literary figures as Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks, whom Parini interviewed before their deaths. But there isn’t any startling new material to supersede Joseph Blotner’s massive 1974 biography, though Parini strains to be up-to-date by emphasizing Faulkner’s friendships with gay men and his fiction’s homoerotic elements (unquestionably present, but hardly worth the amount of attention they receive here), as well as considering feminist assessments of the writer’s female characters. His solid account makes it clear that once Faulkner established himself as a major American author, he basically did two things: write and drink. The clumsy prose (“It was with some relief, for her, that nothing came of her husband’s efforts”), surprising from such a distinguished literary man as Parini, does not increase the book’s readability. There’s no question, however, about this biographer’s admiration for his subject. Newcomers will find all the basic facts about a great American writer and his work, but Faulkner remains, as Parini acknowledges, a “mystery [that] cannot be ‘solved.’ ”

-Publishers Weekly