My Generation: Collected Nonfiction

William Styron, edited by James L.W. West III. Random, $35 (656p) ISBN 978-0-812997-05-7
While West may very well have chosen only to include Styron’s “most important essays, reviews, and memoirs,” as he asserts in his editor’s note, casual admirers of the author may be overwhelmed. Some will undoubtedly feel that less would have been more (91 pieces are included, eight previously unpublished). The entries span a wide variety of topics, including Styron’s reaction to the film version of Sophie’s Choice, his explanation of how the Modern Library editorial board chose the 20th century’s 100 best novels written in English, and his recollection of luminaries such as Robert Penn Warren and Peter Matthiessen. Each is distinguished by Styron’s impressive prose, and many feature brilliantly crafted opening lines that compel further reading (“If the accident of birth caused you to spend most of your early life, as I did, on what is known as the Virginia historic peninsula, you were apt to grow up with a ponderous sense of the American past”). There are too many gems to single any out, and no clunkers, but the book’s length seems likely to discourage readers from picking it up in the first place. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/06/2015
Release date: 06/02/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
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