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by William Styron & edited by Rose Styron with R. Blakeslee Gilpin

Pub Date: Dec. 4th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6806-7
Publisher: Random House

A good portion of William Styron’s personal and business correspondence brought together in one volume.

Starting with letters written to his father while at college, this book also includes writings to early girlfriends, an influential professor, Army buddies, other notable authors, fans, agents and others. The author wrote about a wide variety of subjects, including literature, politics, illness and sex. Styron’s distaste for critics (particularly those who didn’t appreciate his work) was a frequent subject, as were his struggles with writing and self-doubt. With so much ground covered, it is impossible not to learn some fascinating new tidbit about Styron’s life. Unfortunately, editors Styron and Gilpin (John Brown Still Lives!: America's Long Reckoning with Violence, Equality, and Change, 2011, etc.) do not include a single letter written to Styron, which leaves many stories half-told. While some of the one-sided correspondence is explained via the frequent footnotes, most of it is not. Gilpin notes in his introduction that footnoted material was kept to a minimum and only included when necessary. However, many footnotes seem inconsequential at best. For instance, Gilpin explains certain facts that seem obvious, such as Shirley Temple’s status as a famous child actress. Such notes can be abrasive in a 650-page book, often proving distracting rather than edifying. The William Styron timeline at the beginning, however, is helpful.

A great read for Styron devotees, but fans of correspondence will miss the conversational quality of most letter collections.