‘Uncle Willy’ by William Faulkner

An unnamed teenage narrator recalls Uncle Willy who ran the local drugstore. The boys of the town would eat ice-creams and watch Uncle Willy inject himself with morphine: “somebody would say, ‘Don’t it hurt?’ and he would say, ‘No I like it.’” To the people of Jefferson he is a sinner who must be saved but to the narrator he is “the finest man I ever knew”. The teenager comes to Uncle Willy’s assistance in his final flight of agency: “He wound up his life getting fun out of being alive and he died doing the thing that was most fun of all.” I am not the first to say that this is the best film the Coen Brothers have not made.

First published in the October issue of American Mercury, 1935; collected in Collected Stories, Chatto and Windus, 1951, newest edition Vintage, 2009