A Styron On Styron

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.”

(stunned silence)

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.

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8 thoughts on “A Styron On Styron

  1. amyg

    i read that excerpt. (nice find on the reading from vanity fair’s site; i’ve never “heard” him read anything.) i didn’t know anything about his personal life until the vanity fair excerpt either, about her mother’s wealth and such.

    i read these works of art–sophie, nat turner–and i think that only someone who has mastered their life could focus enough to pull such words together. then we find out that we’re all human, no matter what we write.

    how about saul frampton’s “when i’m playing with my cat, how do i know she’s not playing with me?” commentary on montaigne? (and what’s up with montaigne anyway?) i try not to be attracted to overly trended things, but i keep staring it down in the bookstore.

  2. Averil Dean

    You’re a brave woman, Teri. I stay far away from memoirs or biographies of anyone I worship. I’m too suggestible; whatever I loved in that person is magically erased, or buried in muck. I need my white hats spotlessly clean.

  3. MacDougal Street Baby

    I love the photo of her and her family. Is she the one without shoes on? Amazing how that generation would let their kids do things we’d never dream of today. As has been noted, I’m good with shoes unlaced but barefoot and climbing a wooden structure? Never in a million years.

  4. erikamarks

    I read Darkness Visible at a challenging time in my life, and passed the book on to a friend when she needed some comfort. He is a tremendous writer, and I can’t read his work without considering what I know he suffered through, celebrated through.

    I hadn’t heard about this upcoming release, Teri, but now I’m anxious to get my hands on a copy. Wow.

  5. Teri Post author

    This afternoon I rearranged the one of the First Edition bookshelves in my dining room. We (and by “we” I mean Rex) appear to have acquired enough Styron, Stegner, and Steinbeck to fill one shelf on their own.

    As nuts as this sounds, this feels better than cleaning out my closet.

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