A memoir by Alexandra Styron is soon to be released, and I just pre-ordered my copy — my hardback (non-Kindle) copy — from Amazon.com. Being the Styron addict I am, I’ve been dying to read this book since the minute I heard she was writing it.
In this month’s Vanity Fair, you’ll find an excerpt of what appears to be an unflinching account of real life in the Styron household. It was tough for me to read. The book will be tough, too. Because while I’m certainly aware of William Styron’s struggle with depression and drinking, it’s quite another thing to see it there on the stark white page, from his daughter’s vantage point, where it will, I know, break down my iconic image of the handsome, always brilliant, always charming, perfect man, writer-hero I’ve held in my mind’s eye for so, so long.
Still. I can’t wait for the mail lady to drop that book, plop, on my doorstep. I promise you I will toss aside whatever I’m reading — yes, even you, Gustave Flaubert! — and start in on this one the minute I unwrap it.
Styron’s daughter is an accomplished author in her own right. When I read her bio today, I was imagining what it might have been like on the first day of her MFA program at Columbia, going around the table for introductions.
“I’m Alex Styron. Hi (slight fingers wave), and I live in Brooklyn. Did my undergrad at Barnard.”
“Styron. Cool. Any relation to William Styron.”
“He’s my father.”
Okay, maybe it didn’t really happen like this. But can you imagine writing with this kind of legacy? Though from this Vanity Fair excerpt — and another article I read of hers in The New Yorker a few years ago — I’d say she’s doing just fine, following her own path. How brave.
P.S. While fishing around the Vanity Fair site, I also found this 15 minute audio from 1958: Styron reading from LIE DOWN IN DARKNESS, which he wrote at age 25. Twenty-five — that’s about how many times I’ve read the opening sequence of this book to see how it works.