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William Styron

Styron, William, 1925–2006, American novelist, b. Newport News, Va., grad. Duke, 1947. His fiction is often powerful, deeply felt, poetic, and elegiac. He became well known for his novel The Confessions of Nat Turner (1967; Pulitzer Prize), a fictional recreation of the 1831 slave rebellion in Virginia led by Nat Turner. Because Styron's account does not strictly adhere to historical fact and because he was a white man depicting a black man's experiences, the novel elicited harsh criticism, especially from black intellectuals. Styron's other novels include Lie Down in Darkness (1951), Set This House on Fire (1960), and the best-selling Sophie's Choice (1979; film, 1982), the post–World War II tale of a Polish emigré living in Brooklyn, N.Y., and struggling with her haunting history as an Auschwitz survivor. Styron also wrote short stories, novellas, a screenplay, and a play. Many of his essays, reviews, and occasional pieces were collected in This Quiet Dust and Other Writings (1982) and a group of his mainly autobiographical essays were assembled in the posthumously published Havanas in Camelot (2008). Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (1990) describes Styron's harrowing 1980s bout with clinical depression, and A Tidewater Morning: Three Tales from Youth (1993) is a trilogy of autobiographical novellas.

See Conversations with William Styron (1985), ed. by J. L. W. West 3d; Selected Letters of William Styron (2012), ed. by R. Styron (his wife); biography by J. L. W. West 3d (1998); studies by M. J. Friedman (1974), R. K. Morries and I. Malin, ed. (2d ed. 1981), A. D. Casciato and J. L. W. West 3d, ed. (1982), J. K. Crane (1985), J. Ruderman (1987), S. L. Murthy (1988), S. Coale (1991), G. Cologne-Brookes (1995), E. Herion-Sarafidis (1995), and D. W. Ross, ed. (1995).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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