Pylon (novel)

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First edition (publ. Smith & Haas)

Pylon is a novel by the American author William Faulkner. Published in 1935, Pylon is set in New Valois, a fictionalized version of New Orleans. It is one of Faulkner's few novels set outside Yoknapatawpha County, his favorite fictional setting, based on Lafayette County, Mississippi. Pylon is the story of a group of barnstormers whose lives are thoroughly unconventional. They live hand-to-mouth, always just a step or two ahead of destitution, and their interpersonal relationships are unorthodox and shocking by the standards of their society and times. They meet an overwrought and extremely emotional newspaperman in New Valois, who gets deeply involved with them, with tragic consequences.

The novel provided the basis for the 1958 film The Tarnished Angels, directed by Douglas Sirk.

Main characters[edit]

  • The Reporter - An alcoholic, dependent on loans from his editor. His interest in the familial and incestuous racing group—as a newspaper story—becomes fascination and finally obsession (including an unconscious and impossible attraction to Laverne.) He tries to help, but ultimately destroys the family group.
  • Laverne - Mechanic and former wing-walker and parachute jumper. She is openly and bigamously involved with both pilot Roger Shumann and jumper Jack Holmes.
  • Jack - Shumann's presumed child with Laverne. His actual parentage is undetermined. The reporter nicknames him "Dempsey" because of his willingness to fight anyone who asks him, "Who's your old man?"
  • Roger Shumann - Racing pilot, and presumptive father of Jack, whose quiet competence and acceptance of great risk largely supports the family.
  • Jack Holmes - A show jumper, also lover of Laverne and possible father to Jack.
  • Jiggs - Main mechanic. Jiggs' obsession over a pair of cowboy boots in a store window opens the novel. His alcoholic binge (catalyzed by the Reporter) boosts the story toward its ultimate tragedy.

Minor characters[edit]

  • Hagood - Newspaper editor.
  • Matt Ord - Legendary pilot, known throughout the world of aviation and barnstorming. More or less retired from flying, he is part owner of Ord-Atkinson Aircraft Corp. Provides Roger Shumann with an airplane. (Probably a loose combination of both Matty Laird and Jimmy Weddell of Weddell-Williams Flying Service of Patterson, La.)
  • Dr and Mrs Shumann - Shumann's parents, who live in Myron, Ohio.
  • Col. Feinman - New Valois mogul and chairman of the sewage board, who owns the airport where much of the novel's action takes place. (Probably loosely modeled after Levee Board president Abraham Shushan, for whom Shushan Airport—later New Orleans' Lakefront Airport—was originally named)