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Selected Letters of William Styron
by William Styron and Rose Styron and R. Blakeslee Gilpin

Overview - In 1950, at the age of twenty-four, William Clark Styron, Jr., wrote to his mentor, Professor William Blackburn of Duke University. The young writer was struggling with his first novel, "Lie Down in Darkness, " and he was nervous about whether his "strain and toil" would amount to anything.  Read more...

 
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More About Selected Letters of William Styron by William Styron; Rose Styron; R. Blakeslee Gilpin
 
 
 
Overview
In 1950, at the age of twenty-four, William Clark Styron, Jr., wrote to his mentor, Professor William Blackburn of Duke University. The young writer was struggling with his first novel, "Lie Down in Darkness, " and he was nervous about whether his "strain and toil" would amount to anything. "When I mature and broaden," Styron told Blackburn, "I expect to use the language on as exalted and elevated a level as I can sustain. I believe that a writer should accommodate language to his own peculiar personality, and mine wants to use great words, evocative words, when the situation demands them."
In February 1952, Styron was awarded the Prix de Rome of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which crowned him a literary star. In Europe, Styron met and married Rose Burgunder, and found himself immersed in a new generation of expatriate writers. His relationships with George Plimpton and Peter Matthiessen culminated in Styron introducing the debut issue of "The Paris Review." Literary critic Alfred Kazin described him as one of the postwar "super-egotists" who helped transform American letters.
His controversial "The Confessions of Nat Turner" won the 1968 Pulitzer Prize, while "Sophie's Choice "was awarded the 1980 National Book Award, and "Darkness Visible, " Styron's groundbreaking recounting of his ordeal with depression, was not only a literary triumph, but became a landmark in the field.
Part and parcel of Styron's literary ascendance were his friendships with Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, John and Jackie Kennedy, Arthur Miller, James Jones, Carlos Fuentes, Wallace Stegner, Robert Penn Warren, Philip Roth, C. Vann Woodward, and many of the other leading writers and intellectuals of the second half of the twentieth century.
This incredible volume takes readers on an American journey from FDR to George W. Bush through the trenchant observations of one of the country's greatest writers. Not only will readers take pleasure in William Styron's correspondence with and commentary about the people and events that made the past century such a momentous and transformative time, they will also share the writer's private meditations on the very art of writing.
Advance praise for "Selected Letters of William Styron"
"I first encountered Bill Styron when, at twenty, I read "The Confessions of Nat Turner." Hillary and I became friends with Bill and Rose early in my presidency, but I continued to read him, fascinated by the man and his work, his triumphs and troubles, the brilliant lights and dark corners of his amazing mind. These letters, carefully and lovingly selected by Rose, offer real insight into both the great writer and the good man."--President Bill Clinton
"The Bill Styron revealed in these letters is altogether the Bill Styron who was a dear friend and esteemed colleague to me for close to fifty years. The humor, the generosity, the loyalty, the self-awareness, the commitment to literature, the openness, the candor about matters closest to him--all are on display in this superb selection of his correspondence. The directness in the artful sentences is such that I felt his beguiling presence all the while that I was enjoying one letter after another."--Philip Roth
"Bill Styron's letters were never envisioned, far less composed, as part of the Styron oeuvre, yet that is what they turn out to be. Brilliant, passionate, eloquent, insightful, moving, dirty-minded, indignant, and hilarious, they accumulate power in the reading, becoming in themselves a work of literature."--Peter Matthiessen

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781400068067
  • ISBN-10: 1400068061
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Publish Date: December 2012
  • Page Count: 672


Related Categories

Books > Literary Collections > Letters
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Literary
Books > Literary Criticism > Books & Reading

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2012-10-22
  • Reviewer: Staff

In an extraordinary editorial feat, Styron’s widow, Rose (From Summer to Summer), a poet, translator, and activist, and University of South Carolina historian Gilpin (John Brown Still Lives!) have collected, transcribed, and annotated this fascinating trove of letters charting Styron’s development as a man and as a novelist. From Duke University through a WWII VD ward to the success of his first novel, Lie Down in Darkness, and beyond, Styron emerges as a witty, tender, and intelligent correspondent. It is especially revelatory to hear the earnest voice of the young Styron in letters to his supportive father, as he wrestles with doubt and exaltation. Devotees of American literature will be especially gratified to find missives to a pantheon of 20th-century American greats, including Norman Mailer, Henry Miller, George Plimpton, Dorothy Parker, Robert Penn Warren, and Philip Roth. The letters to Mailer—with whom Styron was close until they had a bitter falling out—and Warren are particularly engaging, with insightful discussions of American literature. Meanwhile, there are beautiful and moving letters to Rose and to his daughter, Susanna. While scholars will discover much material of interest, budding writers will also find inspiration as they follow Styron in his journey from obscurity to bestselling and prize-winning author. (Dec.)

 
BookPage Reviews

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WHAT WRITERS ARE READING

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LETTERS FROM A LITERARY LIFE

While she was editing material for Selected Letters of William Styron, Rose Styron, widow of the acclaimed author, had a revelation about her husband: “I realized that half the endless hours I thought he was working on novels . . . he was actually writing letters.” Spanning almost six decades, the book is an intriguing chronicle of one writer’s interaction with his peers, including Henry Miller, Philip Roth, George Plimpton and Robert Penn Warren. Styron, who died in 2006, earned numerous honors for his fiction, including a Pulitzer Prize for The Confessions of Nat Turner and a National Book Award for Sophie’s Choice. The letters document his student days at Duke University, his steady artistic ascent and his path as a world traveler. They’re studded with classic anecdotes—the stuff from which literary legends are spun. Styron spots T.S. Eliot on a London subway, engages in a verbal brawl with Norman Mailer and locks horns with Harold Bloom, whom he refers to as “a foolish ass of a Yale professor.” Offering an in-depth look at the esteemed author, this collection proves that letter-writing is indeed an art.

A CRIMINAL COLLECTION

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NEW LIFE FOR CLASSIC TALE

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