Letters to My Father

Overview

"I've finally pretty much decided what to write next -- a novel based on Nat Turner's rebellion," twenty-six-year-old William Styron confided to his father in a letter he wrote on May 1, 1952. Styron would not publish his Pulitzer Prize--winning The Confessions of Nat Turner until 1967, but this letter undercuts those critics who later attacked the writer as an opportunist capitalizing on the heated racial climate of the late 1960s. From 1943 to 1953, Styron wrote over one hundred letters to William C. Styron, Sr., detailing his adventures, his

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Letters to My Father

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Overview

"I've finally pretty much decided what to write next -- a novel based on Nat Turner's rebellion," twenty-six-year-old William Styron confided to his father in a letter he wrote on May 1, 1952. Styron would not publish his Pulitzer Prize--winning The Confessions of Nat Turner until 1967, but this letter undercuts those critics who later attacked the writer as an opportunist capitalizing on the heated racial climate of the late 1960s. From 1943 to 1953, Styron wrote over one hundred letters to William C. Styron, Sr., detailing his adventures, his works in progress, and his ruminations on the craft of writing. In Letters to My Father, Styron biographer James L. W. West III collects this correspondence for the first time, revealing the early, intimate thoughts of a young man who was to become a literary icon. Styron wrote his earliest letters from Davidson College, where he was very much unsure of himself and of his prospects in life. By the last few letters, however, he had achieved a great deal: he had earned a commission in the Marine Corps, survived World War II, published the novel Lie Down in Darkness (1951) and the novella The Long March (1953), and won the Prix de Rome. He had also recently married and was about to return to the United States from an expatriate period in Paris and Rome. The letters constitute a portrait of the artist as a young man. They read like an epistolary novel, with movement from location to location and changes in voice and language. Styron was extremely close to his father and quite open with him. His story is a classic one, from youthful insecurity to artistic self-discovery, capped by recognition and success. There are challenges along the way for the hero -- poor academic performance, a syphilis scare, writer's block, temporary frustration in romance. But Styron overcomes these difficulties and emerges as a confident young writer, ready to tackle his next project, the novel Set This House on Fire (1960). Rose Styron, the author's widow, contributes a prefatory memoir of the senior Styron. West has provided comprehensive annotations to the correspondence, and the volume also has several illustrations, including facsimiles of some of the letters, which survive among Styron's papers at Duke University. Finally, there is a selection of Styron's apprentice fiction from the late 1940s and early 1950s. In all of American literature, no other extended series of such letters -- son to father -- exists. Letters to My Father offers a unique glimpse into the formative years of one of the most admired and controversial writers of his time.

LSU Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807134009
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Series: Southern Literary Studies
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,446,461
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

William Styron

William Styron (1925--2006) was the author of many books, including The Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie's Choice. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Howells Medal, the American Book Award, the L├ęgion d'Honneur, and the MacDowell Medal.

James L. W. West III is the author of William Styron: A Life (1998) and general editor of the Cambridge Edition of the Works of F. Scott Fitzgerald. He is Sparks Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University.

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LSU Press

Biography

One of the great writers of the generation succeeding that of Hemingway and Faulkner, William Styron is renowned for the elegance of his prose and his powerful moral engagement. His books include Lie Down in Darkness, The Long March, The Confessions of Nat Turner, Sophie's Choice, This Quiet Dust, and Darkness Visible. He has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the American Book Award, the Howells Medal, and the Edward MacDowell Medal.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Also Known As:
      William Clark Styron Jr. (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      Roxbury, Connecticut, and Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 11, 1925
    2. Place of Birth:
      Newport News, Virginia
    1. Date of Death:
      November 1, 2006
    2. Place of Death:
      Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

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