William Styron, gone but not forgotten


How well I remember the first time I read William Styron. The book was The Confessions of Nat Turner for which he won the Pulitzer. Though in my teens, I was barely more than a child and completely shocked by the world he depicted.

Fast forward several years and Styron did it to me again with Sophie's Choice. What a brutal, heartbreaking story. I wept buckets, but that didn't keep me from seeing the movie version starring Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline with each so young and beautiful and doomed. I wept more buckets.

Styron's biography says he explored the darkest corners of the human mind and experience and that he was plagued by his own near-suicidal demons. It's easy to believe that the darkness he explored mirrored that inside his own heart. How else could he have written in a way that conveyed such authenticity?

I always liked knowing that he'd served in 1945 in Okinawa. Many years after he'd been there, I lived on the island. I'd think about the things I'd see and know that he'd seen them too, and they probably had looked about the same.

I also liked that he and other authors successfully kept the Disney company from putting a theme park near the Manassas National Battlefield in northern Virginia.

His writing, and he himself, was revered and reviled. Maybe that's always the way it is with people who touch our deepest emotions.

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