|Born||William Clark Styron Jr.|
June 11, 1925
Newport News, Virginia, U.S.
|Died||November 1, 2006 81) (aged|
Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Alma mater||Duke University|
|Notable works||Lie Down in Darkness|
The Confessions of Nat Turner
Rose Styron(m. 1953)
|Children||4, including Alexandra|
William Clark Styron Jr. (June 11, 1925 – November 1, 2006) was an American novelist and essayist who won major literary awards for his work.
Styron was best known for his novels, including:
In 1985, he suffered from his first serious bout with depression. Once he recovered from his illness, Styron was able to write the memoir Darkness Visible (1990), the work he became best known for during the last two decades of his life.
Styron was born in the Hilton Village historic districtof Newport News, Virginia, the son of Pauline Margaret (Abraham) and William Clark Styron. He grew up in the South and was steeped in its history. His birthplace was less than a hundred miles from the site of Nat Turner’s slave rebellion, later the source for Styron's most famous and controversial novel.
Styron's Northern mother and liberal Southern father gave him a broad perspective on race relations. Styron’s childhood was a difficult one. His father, a shipyard engineer, suffered from clinical depression, which Styron himself would later experience. His mother died from breast cancer in 1939 when Styron was still a boy, following her decade-long battle with the disease.
Styron attended public school in Warwick County, first at Hilton School and then at Morrison High School (now known as Warwick High School) for two years, until his father sent him to Christchurch School, an Episcopal college-preparatory school in the Tidewater region of Virginia. Styron once said, "But of all the schools I attended...only Christchurch ever commanded something more than mere respect—which is to say, my true and abiding affection."
Upon graduation, Styron enrolled in Davidson College [ citation needed ]. Styron published several short stories in the University literary magazine, The Archive, between 1944 and 1946. Though Styron was made a lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, the Japanese surrendered before his ship left San Francisco. After the war, he returned to full-time studies at Duke and completed his Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in English in 1947.and joined Phi Delta Theta. By the age of eighteen he was reading the writers who would have a lasting influence on his vocation as a novelist and writer, especially Thomas Wolfe. Styron transferred to Duke University in 1943 as a part of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps V-12 program aimed at fast-tracking officer candidates by enrolling them simultaneously in basic training and bachelor's degree programs. There he published his first fiction, a short story heavily influenced by William Faulkner, in an anthology of student work
After graduation, Styron took an editing position with McGraw-Hill in New York City. Styron later recalled the misery of this work in an autobiographical passage of Sophie’s Choice. After provoking his employers into firing him, he set about writing his first novel in earnest. Three years later, he published the novel, Lie Down in Darkness (1951), the story of a dysfunctional Virginia family. The novel received overwhelming critical acclaim. For this novel, Styron received the prestigious Rome Prize, awarded by the American Academy in Rome and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
His recall into the military due to the Korean War prevented him from immediately accepting the Rome Prize. Styron joined the Marine Corps, but was discharged in 1952 for eye problems. However, he was to transform his experience at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina into his short novel, The Long March , published serially the following year. This was adapted for the Playhouse 90 episode The Long March in 1958.
Styron spent an extended period in Europe. In Paris, he became friends with writers Romain Gary, George Plimpton, Peter Matthiessen, James Baldwin, James Jones and Irwin Shaw, among others. In 1953, the group founded the magazine Paris Review , which became a celebrated literary journal.
The year 1953 was eventful for Styron in another way. Finally able to take advantage of his Rome Prize, he traveled to Italy, where he became friends with Truman Capote. At the American Academy, he renewed an acquaintance with a young Baltimore poet, Rose Burgunder, to whom he had been introduced the previous fall at Johns Hopkins University. They were married in Rome in the spring of 1953.
Some of Styron’s experiences during this period inspired his third published book Set This House on Fire (1960), a novel about intellectual American expatriates on the Amalfi coast of Italy. The novel received mixed reviews in the United States, although its publisher considered it successful in terms of sales. In Europe its translation into French achieved best-seller status, far outselling the American edition.
Styron's next two novels, published between 1967 and 1979, sparked much controversy. Feeling wounded by his first truly harsh reviews [ citation needed ], for Set This House on Fire, Styron spent the years after its publication researching and writing his next novel, the fictitious memoirs of the historical Nathaniel "Nat" Turner, a slave who led a slave rebellion in 1831.
During the 1960s, Styron became an eyewitness to another time of rebellion in the United States, living and writing at the heart of that turbulent decade, a time highlighted by the counterculture revolution with its political struggle, civil unrest, and racial tension. The public response to this social upheaval was furious and intense: battle lines were being drawn. In 1968, Styron signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, a vow refusing to pay taxes as a protest against the Vietnam War.
In this atmosphere of dissent, many[ who? ] had criticized Styron's friend James Baldwin for his novel Another Country , published in 1962. Among the criticisms was outrage over a black author choosing a white woman as the protagonist in a story that tells of her involvement with a black man. Baldwin was Styron's house guest for several months following the critical storm generated by Another Country. During that time, he read early drafts of Styron's new novel, and predicted that Styron's book would face even harsher scrutiny than Another Country. "Bill's going to catch it from both sides," he told an interviewer immediately following the 1967 publication of The Confessions of Nat Turner.
Baldwin's prediction was correct, and despite public defenses of Styron by leading artists of the time, including Baldwin and Ralph Ellison, numerous other black critics reviled Styron's portrayal of Turner as racist stereotyping. The historian and critic John Henrik Clarke edited and contributed to a polemical anthology, William Styron's Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond, published in 1968 by Beacon Press. Particularly controversial was a passage in which Turner fantasizes about raping a white woman. Styron also writes of a situation where Turner and another slave boy have a homosexual encounter while alone in the woods. Several critics pointed to this as a dangerous perpetuation of a traditional Southern justification for lynching. Despite the controversy, the novel was a runaway critical and financial success, and won both the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction,and the William Dean Howells Medal in 1970.
Styron's next novel, Sophie's Choice (1979), also generated significant controversy, in part due to Styron's decision to portray a non-Jewish victim of Nazism and in part due to its explicit sexuality and profanity. It was banned in South Africa, censored in the Soviet Union, and banned in Poland for "its unflinching portrait of Polish anti-Semitism"It has also been banned in some high schools in the United States.
The novel tells the story of Sophie (a Polish Roman Catholic who survived Auschwitz), Nathan (her brilliant Jewish lover who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia), and Stingo (a Southern transplant in post-World War II-Brooklyn who was in love with Sophie). It won the 1980 National Book Award and was a nationwide bestseller. A 1982 film version was nominated for five Academy Awards, with Meryl Streep winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Sophie. Kevin Kline and Peter MacNicol played Nathan and Stingo, respectively.
Styron's readership expanded with the publication of Darkness Visible in 1990. This memoir, which began as a magazine article, chronicles the author's descent into depression and his near-fatal night of "despair beyond despair".It is a first-hand account of a major depressive episode and challenged the modern taboo on acknowledging such issues. The memoir's goals included increasing knowledge and decreasing stigmatization of major depressive disorders and suicide. It explored the phenomenology of the disease among sufferers, their loved ones, and the general public as well. Earlier, in December 1989, Styron had written an op-ed for The New York Times responding to the disappointment and mystification among scholars about the apparent suicide of Primo Levi, the remarkable Italian writer who survived the Nazi death camps, but apparently fell victim to depression in his final years. Reportedly, it was the public's unsympathetic response to Levi's death that impelled Styron to take a more active role as an advocate for educating the public about the nature of depression, about which he was a dilettante, and the role it allegedly played in mental health and suicide. Styron noted in an article for Vanity Fair that "the pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne. The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain. Through the healing process of time—and through medical intervention or hospitalization in many cases—most people survive depression, which may be its only blessing; but to the tragic legion who are compelled to destroy themselves there should be no more reproof attached than to the victims of terminal cancer."
Styron was awarded the St. Louis Literary Award from the Saint Louis University Library Associates.
Styron was awarded the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca in 1985.
His short story "Shadrach" was filmed in 1998, under the same title. It was co-directed by his daughter Susanna Styron.
Other works published during his lifetime include the play In the Clap Shack (1973), and a collection of his nonfiction, This Quiet Dust (1982).
French President François Mitterrand invited Styron to his first Presidential inauguration, and later made him a Commander of the Legion of Honor.In 1993, Styron was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
In 2002 an opera by Nicholas Maw based on Sophie's Choice premièred at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London. Maw wrote the libretto and composed the music. He had approached Styron about writing the libretto, but Styron declined. Later the opera received a new production by stage director Markus Bothe at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Volksoper Wien, and had its North American premiere at the Washington National Opera in October 2006.
A collection of Styron's papers and records is housed at the Rubenstein Library, Duke University.
In 1996 William Styron received the 1st Fitzgerald Award on the centenary of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birth. The F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Achievement in American Literature award is given annually in Rockville Maryland, the city where Fitzgerald, his wife, and his daughter are buried, as part of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival. In 1988 he was awarded the Edward MacDowell Medal.
The Port Warwick neighborhood of Newport News, Virginia, was named after the fictional city in Styron's Lie Down in Darkness. The neighborhood describes itself as a "mixed-use new urbanism development." The most prominent feature of Port Warwick is William Styron Square along with its two main boulevards, Loftis Boulevard and Nat Turner Boulevard, named after characters in Styron's novels. Styron himself was appointed to design a naming system for Port Warwick, deciding to "honor great American writers", resulting in Philip Roth Street, Thomas Wolfe Street, Flannery O'Connor Street, Herman Melville Avenue and others.
Styron died from pneumonia on November 1, 2006, at age 81 on Martha's Vineyard. He is buried at West Chop Cemetery in Vineyard Haven, Dukes County, Massachusetts.
While doing a fellowship at the American Academy in Rome, Styron renewed a passing acquaintance with young Baltimore poet Rose Burgunder. They married in Rome in the spring of 1953. Together, they had four children: daughter Susanna Styron is a film director; daughter Paola is an internationally acclaimed modern dancer; daughter Alexandra is a writer, known for the 2001 novel All The Finest Girls and 2011 memoir Reading My Father: A Memoir; son Thomas is a professor of clinical psychology at Yale University.
Note - the following is a list of the first American editions of Styron's books
John Winslow Irving is a US-Canadian novelist and screenwriter.
Ralph Waldo Ellison was an American novelist, literary critic, and scholar best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953. He also wrote Shadow and Act (1964), a collection of political, social and critical essays, and Going to the Territory (1986). For The New York Times, the best of these essays in addition to the novel put him "among the gods of America's literary Parnassus." A posthumous novel, Juneteenth, was published after being assembled from voluminous notes he left upon his death.
Nat Turner was an enslaved African-American preacher who led a four-day rebellion of both enslaved and free black people in Southampton County, Virginia, beginning August 21, 1831. The rebellion caused the death of approximately 60 white men, women, and children. Whites organized militias and called out regular troops to suppress the uprising. In addition, white militias and mobs attacked blacks in the area, killing an estimated 120 men, women, and children, many of whom were not involved in the revolt.
Sophie's Choice is a 1979 novel by American author William Styron. It concerns the relationships between three people sharing a boarding house in Brooklyn: Stingo, a young aspiring writer from the South, and the Jewish scientist Nathan Landau and his lover Sophie, a Polish Catholic survivor of the German Nazi concentration camps, whom he befriends.
This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1979.
Donald Patrick "Pat" Conroy was an American author who wrote several acclaimed novels and memoirs; his books The Water is Wide, The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, were made into films, the latter 2 being Oscar nominated. He is recognized as a leading figure of late-20th century Southern literature.
Frank Belknap Long was an American writer of horror fiction, fantasy, science fiction, poetry, gothic romance, comic books, and non-fiction. Though his writing career spanned seven decades, he is best known for his horror and science fiction short stories, including early contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos. During his life, Long received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement, and the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award (1977).
The Confessions of Nat Turner is a 1967 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by U.S. writer William Styron. Presented as a first-person narrative by historical figure Nat Turner, the novel concerns the slave revolt in Virginia in 1831. It is based on The Confessions of Nat Turner: The Leader of the Late Insurrection in Southampton, Virginia, a first-hand account of Turner's confessions published by a local lawyer, Thomas Ruffin Gray, in 1831.
David Dabydeen is a Guyanese-born broadcaster, novelist, poet and academic. He was formerly Guyana's Ambassador to UNESCO( United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organisation) from 1997 to 2010 and the youngest Member of the UNESCO Executive Board (1993–1997), elected by the General Council of all Member States of UNESCO. He was appointed Guyana's Ambassador Plenipotentiary and Extraordinaire to China, from 2010 to 2015. He is one of the longest serving diplomats in the history of Guyana, most of his work done in a voluntary unpaid capacity.
Dragan Todorović is a writer and multimedia artist. Until 1995 he lived in Yugoslavia, where he worked as a journalist, editor, and TV personality.
Sophie's Choice is a 1982 American drama film directed by Alan J. Pakula, who adapted William Styron's novel of the same name. Meryl Streep stars as Sophie, a Polish immigrant who shares a boarding house in Brooklyn with her tempestuous lover, Nathan, and a young writer, Stingo.
David Ebershoff is an American writer, editor, and teacher. His debut novel, The Danish Girl, was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film of the same name in 2015, while his third novel, The 19th Wife, was adapted into a television movie of the same name in 2010.
Jerome Charyn is an American author. With nearly 50 published works over a 50-year span, Charyn has a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life, writing in multiple genres.
The Crown Publishing Group is a subsidiary of Penguin Random House that publishes across several categories including fiction, non-fiction, biography, autobiography and memoir, cooking, health, business, and lifestyle. Its imprints include Crown, Crown Archetype, Crown Business, Crown Forum, Hogarth, Three Rivers Press, Clarkson Potter, Potter Craft, Potter Style, Broadway Books, Broadway Paperbacks, Image, WaterBrook/Multnomah, Harmony Books, Rodale Books, Watson-Guptill, Amphoto Books, and Ten Speed Press. Formerly, the company also used the Bell Tower Press, Orion Books, and related imprints and subsidiaries, such as Gramercy Publishing Company. However, these have now either been discontinued or transferred to other Random House units.
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness is a memoir by American writer William Styron about his descent into depression and the triumph of recovery. It is among the last books published by Styron and is widely considered one of his best and most influential works. Darkness Visible also helped raise awareness for depression, which was relatively unknown at the time.
Nat Turner's Rebellion was a slave rebellion that took place in Southampton County, Virginia, in August 1831, led by Nat Turner. Rebel slaves killed from 55 to 65 people, at least 51 being white. The rebellion was put down within a few days, but Turner survived in hiding for more than two months afterwards. The rebellion was effectively suppressed at Belmont Plantation on the morning of August 23, 1831.
Peter Selgin is an American novelist, short story writer, playwright, essayist, editor, and illustrator. Selgin is Associate Professor of English at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, Georgia. He is also a former affiliate faculty member at Antioch University's Low-Residency MFA Creative Writing Program in Los Angeles, California.
Dessa Rose is a novel by Sherley Anne Williams published in 1986. The book is a neo-slave narrative, incorporating many elements of traditional slave narratives. The book is divided into three sections: "The Darky", "The Wench" and "The Negress". The sections represent a different stage of growth in the life of the protagonist, Dessa Rose.
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Jasmin Darznik is the author of two books, The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother's Hidden Life, which became a New York Times bestseller and Song of a Captive Bird, a novel inspired by the life of Forugh Farrokhzad, Iran's notorious woman poet. A New York Times Book Review "Editors' Choice" and a Los Angeles Times bestseller, Song of a Captive Bird was praised by The New York Times as a "complex and beautiful rendering of [a] vanished country and its scattered people; a reminder of the power and purpose of art; and an ode to female creativity under a patriarchy that repeatedly tries to snuff it out." Darznik's books have been published in seventeen countries. Her next book, a novel set in 1920s San Francisco, is forthcoming from Random House/Ballantine.
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