Selected Letters of William Styron

William Styron, Author, Rose Styron, Editor, R Blakeslee Gilpin, Editor
Edited by Rose Styron, with R. Blakeslee Gilpin. Random, $40 (704p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6806-7
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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.)
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