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William Styron, R.I.P.
November 2, 2006 9:23 AM   Subscribe

William Styron, R.I.P The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone's neurosis. One of the true 20th century American masters, is gone from pneumonia, at the age of 81. A writer of some the most fluent prose I have ever had the privilege to read, he also wrote one of the best first-person accounts of clinical depression ever written.
posted by psmealey (27 comments total)

 
Wow. A fascinating person, an amazing writer, brilliant and human. He lived and worked in interesting and difficult times, see Nat Turner controversy.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:31 AM on November 2, 2006


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posted by dhartung at 9:35 AM on November 2, 2006


loved Sophie's Choice, hated the Confessions ... he was an interesting figure.
posted by Julnyes at 9:35 AM on November 2, 2006


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posted by trip and a half at 9:38 AM on November 2, 2006


Darkness Visible is a very important book to many people and its probably no exaggeration to say it has saved lives.

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posted by Rumple at 9:50 AM on November 2, 2006


I guess I need to get working. I bought 'The Confessions of Nat Turner' a few weeks ago and only read a couple pages initially, but what struck me first off was the disconnect between the narrator's physical and social status and the quality of his language. Perhaps its classist of me, but I wasn't expecting someone who'd been enslaved since birth and presumably known only meanial labor to have the voice of post-doc in literature.

I guess I was expecting something a little more naturalisitic and vernacular-ish, sort of Huck-Finn-ish, but what I found was very wordy and flowery. That sort of worked in "Sophie's Choice" but in the context of Nat Turner, it was initially jarring and off-putting.
posted by hwestiii at 9:50 AM on November 2, 2006


Rumple, I could not agree more.
posted by psmealey at 9:52 AM on November 2, 2006


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posted by Smart Dalek at 9:53 AM on November 2, 2006


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Well done, Marine.

Having read Sophie’s Choice mumble years ago, I can totally believe he battled depression.

He helped me understand the life and times of Nat Turner a bit, too. NT was Erasmus to John Brown’s Luther (kinda sorta, if you hold your head sideways and squint a lot).
posted by pax digita at 9:54 AM on November 2, 2006


I want to go on record saying I found Sophie's Choice meandering and boring. I'm happy for all of you that enjoyed/were moved by it; I just thought I'd speak out for the disenfranchised minority who are often unable to voice their dislike of classic written works.

Nonetheless, R.I.P., Mr. Styron.

p.s.: Gatsby sucked ass, too.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 10:50 AM on November 2, 2006


I think Gatsby probably had his ass sucked more often than visa versa. Although Daisy doesn't really seem to be that kind of girl.
posted by spicynuts at 11:13 AM on November 2, 2006


p.s.: Gatsby sucked ass, too.

Thank you for establishing your credibility.
posted by found missing at 11:17 AM on November 2, 2006


I want to go on record saying I found Sophie's Choice meandering and boring.

YMMV, of course, but even when Stryon meanders, he writes so incredibly well, that I don't care. I enjoy his digression as much as I do everything else in that novel.
posted by psmealey at 11:19 AM on November 2, 2006


And what was that Shakespeare thinking? Sheesh! Could he be crappier? Am I right? Huh? Huh?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:19 AM on November 2, 2006


I enjoyed William. . . oh wait, Laguna Beach just came on.
posted by four panels at 12:15 PM on November 2, 2006


Nice try, Astro Zombie, but it's obvious who the real iconoclast in this thread is. You squares are just so wrapped up in conforming to society's conventions that you can't recognize a true visionary when you see one. Tell us more about these overrated classics, Terminal Verbosity, and don't be afraid to step on a few toes!
posted by gigawhat? at 12:18 PM on November 2, 2006


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posted by Hobgoblin at 1:04 PM on November 2, 2006


Here's the scoop on Styron:

1.) Like Zadie Smith, he was a great writer, but could not structure a novel worth beans. The first chapter of Sophie's Choice is a brilliant short story that has nothing to do with the rest the novel (which absurdly gives virtually the same narrative weight to the sexual frustration of a Brooklyn teenager as it gives to the Holocaust). "Nat Turner" is pretty good.

2.) In regards to Styron's depression, the "small print" in Darkness Visible is actually crucial: the man was on high doses of Halcion -- a powerful sedative known to generate severe depression (the same drug Richard Nixon was on). While this little detail may not seem important, it actually changes the whole existential story: Styron's depression did not simply and terrifyingly descend upon him from the blue. It was simply a side effect of his sleeping pills.

Big difference.
posted by Faze at 1:39 PM on November 2, 2006


My favorite author, and inspiration for my long-time online moniker (Zosia Blue). A strange loss.
posted by Zosia Blue at 2:18 PM on November 2, 2006


Strange. as in it feels like I've lost a friend.
posted by Zosia Blue at 2:20 PM on November 2, 2006


Re Halcion, a near psychotic episode with that medication is also the narrative trigger for Phillip Roth's "Operation Shylock".
posted by hwestiii at 3:50 PM on November 2, 2006


A truly great writer and a good man. Saw him in Denver at a lecture back in the early 90's. I remember seeing his hands and thinking, "those are the hands that wrote Sophie's Choice."

A great light has gone out. He will be missed.
posted by rougy at 3:56 PM on November 2, 2006


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posted by muddylemon at 8:51 PM on November 2, 2006


Gatsby sucked ass, too

Bit of a derail, but I'd be interested in knowing why you say that. For the record, I could not disagree more.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:34 AM on November 3, 2006


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posted by cass at 8:25 AM on November 3, 2006


"Darkness Visible" is on my reading list as is A. Alvarez's "The Savage God."
Has anyone read both? Best one to start with?
posted by bashos_frog at 9:54 AM on November 3, 2006


absurdly gives virtually the same narrative weight to the sexual frustration of a Brooklyn teenager as it gives to the Holocaust

I have heard that before, but I disagree. I would argue that that goes to the core novel's genius and to Styron's magnificence in pulling it off. It takes on how unfathomable the tragedy of the Holocaust (as well as a particularly nasty form of survivor guilt) is by juxtaposing it to something so trivial (though not to Stingo). The end result is something powerful, moving and at times annoying, but that's all by design.
posted by psmealey at 9:01 AM on November 22, 2006


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