The Styrons

April 23rd, 2011 by Michael Tabor

Alexandra Styron has just written a book about her famous author and father – William Styron. This is not a book review but I have read the NY Times critique (it is a memoir) and I must say this sounds like a good read. I am blogging about William Styron because firstly I am a fan (I have read three of his works) and furthermore there is so much to write about this celebrated, sophisticated, and high-toned bohemian household.
I was amazed to read that the Styrons were friends with so many famous, eclectic, and interesting people. The Styrons hosted many renowned dinner parties either at the mansion in Connecticut or Martha’s Vineyard. Some of their guests included Bill Clinton, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (famous Columbian novelist), Sondra Radyanovsky – talented and extraordinary American soprano, Edward Kennedy, James Jones, James Baldwin, Carly Simon, Arthur Miller, Leonard Bernstein and so many more. They also enjoyed great conversation at these parties as one can imagine.
It is hard to fathom that a person in William Styron who had it all – fame, fortune, a plethora of celebrity friends, Luxurious homes in the finest regions of this country, etc., could ever fall victim to severe clinical depression.  He wrote about his affliction in 1990 in the apt and very creative title ‘Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness.’ I have personally suffered from depression and have read my share of books on the topic and I can honestly say that this short book resonated with me so vividly that in my opinion if one is interested in learning about despair at its worse, one need only to read this one book. Bear in mind, it is grim so do not read it if you or a loved one is not in the grips of depression (life is too short. Who wants to be weighed down by a book about such personal agony).
The New York Times Review stated that William Styon’s  genetic talent was successfully passed on to his youngest daughter. The memoir is well-written, produced with a flair and a style of her own (Alexandra Styron had written a novel before this), and is a compelling recollection of what it was like being a child and growing up and being raised by this loving but sometimes cruel and prodigiously flawed famous father. William Styron had a furious temper and was irritable beyond words even before he fell victim to suicidal depression(note: William Styron unsuccessfully attempted suicide and died of natural causes at the age of 81 in 2006.) As a matter of fact, much ink is spilled during the period when Mr. Styron was most famous – in 1979 after he had written his most famous novel – Sophie’s Choice’. This novel was later made into a successful movie starring huge actors at the time – Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline. This made the Styrons very wealthy and brought accreditation to William’s literary talents.
I probably am going to read this memoir but I sometimes wonder why individuals share with the world such personal and quite frankly very unflattering and embarrassing details about a loved one. Well to answer my own question and if I were conjecturing cynically I would say for the money. A few days back I wrote about celebrity biographies and without a doubt that is just self-promotion. However, William Styron was a good writer and obviously, there is a something to say about this larger-than-life upbringing. Furthermore it’s not all bad. Alexendra loved her father and she does invite the readers to perhaps get a glimpse of what it was like.
Now it’s your turn WHADAWETHINK ? Are you a fan of William Styron? Did you read or see the movie ‘Sophie’s Choice’?  Why do you think people share with the world such personal matters? As you know, I am personally opposed to silly self-promoting biographies by non-writers but we are talking about something entirely different here.

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2 Responses to “The Styrons”

  1. Ivan Says:

    Es… Tal coincidencia casual

  2. Sunni Ege Says:

    nice post. thanks.

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