Thursday, November 02, 2006

In Memorium, William Styron, American Writer And Public Intellectual

"William Styron, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of ''The Confessions of Nat Turner'' and other novels whose explorations of the darkest corners of the human mind and experience were charged by his own near-suicidal demons, died Wednesday. He was 81.

Styron's daughter, Alexandra, said the author died of pneumonia at a hospital in Martha's Vineyard, Mass. Styron, who had homes in Martha's Vineyard and Connecticut, had been in failing health for a long time.

''This is terrible,'' said Kurt Vonnegut, a longtime friend. ''He was dramatic, he was fun. He was strong and proud and he was awfully good with the language. I hated to see him end this way.''

A handsome, muscular man, with a strong chin and wavy dark hair that turned an elegant white, Styron was a Virginia native whose obsessions with race, class and personal guilt led to such tormented narratives as ''Lie Down In Darkness'' and ''The Confessions of Nat Turner,'' which won the Pulitzer despite protests that the book was racist and inaccurate.

His other works included ''Sophie's Choice,'' the award-winning novel about a Holocaust survivor from Poland, and ''A Tidewater Morning,'' a collection of fiction pieces. He also published a book of essays, ''This Quiet Dust,'' and the best-selling memoir ''Darkness Visible,'' in which Styron recalled nearly taking his own life.

Styron was a liberal long involved in public causes, from supporting a Connecticut teacher suspended for refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance to advocating for human rights for Jews in the Soviet Union. In the 1990s, Styron was among a group of authors and historians who successfully opposed plans for a Disney theme park near the Manassas National Battlefield in northern Virginia." ...

Associated Press "Novelist William Styron Dies at 81" New York Times November 2, 2006

Photo credit: Staphis Orphanos and the University of Virginia. With thanks.


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