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  • William Styron's Posthumous Publications:Reaffirmation of an American Man of Letters
  • Jean W. Cash (bio), Rhoda Sirlin (bio), and David R. Young (bio)

A Tidewater Morning (1993) was the last full-length book William Styron published during his lifetime. Since his death in November 2006, however, three additional volumes of his work have appeared thanks to the efforts of his widow, Rose Burgunder Styron, and his biographer, James L. W. West III. The works include a collection of essays, Havanas in Camelot, 2008; Letters to My Father, 2009; and, The Suicide Run: Five Tales of the Marine Corps, 2009.1 All three volumes add to Styron's reputation as a man of multiple interests. His early letters are invaluable to any reader interested in the process of how one writer obsessed with writing as a means of self-fulfillment began his career. They also show how important Styron's father was to that development. The essays, primarily drawn from work that Styron published in magazines and journals during his later years, show his far-ranging interests: literary, political, and social. Styron's military stories reflect his desire to write a World War II novel, a desire that he never realized, at least partly because of his ambivalence about war.

Since 2000, nearly forty new articles have appeared on Styron's writing, some of them in France where his fiction has long had strong appeal. More than twenty books published in that same time period contain chapters on Styron's fiction and nonfiction. Graduate students [End Page 56] have produced two Ph.D. dissertations. This critical interest and his recent posthumous publications substantiate Styron's status as a major twentieth-century writer whose influence will prevail through the twenty-first and beyond. William Styron's three posthumous works clearly extend our knowledge of his life and career. Styron studies have also been enhanced by the 2011 publication of Reading My Father by his daughter Alexandra. The youngest of his four children, Alexandra's memories are often contradictory. On the one hand, she is fully aware of her father's fame, of his huge capacity for friendship with writers, politicians, and other celebrities; on the other, she remembers Styron as an autocratic figure in the household, cruel to his children and demanding of his talented wife, Rose. The William Styron who emerges from his letters to his father contrasts Alexandra Styron's version of the author. Letters to My Father, comprised of the letters the young Styron wrote to his father between 1943 and 1953, reveals a man who particularly cherished his own father while still utterly devoted to the arduous task of becoming a writer.

The young Styron wrote 102 letters to his father, also named William C. Styron. As editor of Letters to My Father, James L. W. West III writes in his introduction that "no other extended series of letters like this one, son to father, [exist] in all of American literature. The letters tell their own story, a narrative of ambition, drive, and commitment to literature" (xxviii). West, Styron's authorized biographer, annotated the letters and included and organized other material in this small but intriguing book. A Foreword from Rose Styron elaborates the relationship between father and son and gives considerable insight into the personality and interests of the older Styron. The letters themselves follow this introductory material. As Rose Styron reveals, the two William Styrons exchanged fewer letters after 1953 when they began to communicate with each other more by telephone or in fairly frequent visits.

West also includes a previously unpublished photograph of Styron at the age of five with his father, asserting that it is the only known photograph of the two together. At the end, West includes three letters from William C. Styron to his son, and a brief biography he (Styron's father) wrote for the Duke Alumni Association in 1951. When he read the biography, Styron wrote to his father in June 1951, "I thought the biography you sent to Duke was fine stuff, if a little embarrassing to read first-hand by the biographee" (Letters to My Father 116). West also included five stories that Styron produced during his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2474-8102
Print ISSN
2470-9506
Pages
pp. 56-77
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-19
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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