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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Daughter of literary giant William Styron discusses her 2011 memoir Reading My Father tonight

Alexandra Styron
  • Rex Bonomell
  • Alexandra Styron
Alexandra Styron is the youngest child of the late William Styron, a behemoth of 20th-century American literature, or as she puts it in her acclaimed 2011 memoir Reading My Father: "In 1952, when he was twenty-six, my father published his first novel, Lie Down in Darkness. The book was an immediate success, and he was soon hailed as one of the great literary voices of his generation. Descendants of the so-called Lost Generation, my father and his crowd, including Norman Mailer, James Jones, and Irwin Shaw, embraced their roles as Big Male Writers. For years they perpetuated, without apology, the cliché of the gifted, hard drinking, bellicose writer that gave so much of twentieth-century literature a muscular, glamorous aura. "

In case you wanted to flip through some photographic proof of his place in the canon, the Styron family photo gallery on Alexandra's author site includes snapshots of her father paling it up at his surprise 60th birthday party with Peter Matthiessen, Kurt Vonnegut and George Plimpton on Martha's Vineyard. Other writer porn from the gallery includes a shot of a 1963 party at Plimpton’s apartment where William can be seen talking to Truman Capote and Doc Humes surrounded by Plimpton, Mario Puzo, Bruce Jay Friedman, Arthur Kopit, Terry Southern, Matthiessen, Ralph Ellison and Sidney Lumet. According to Alexandra's photo caption, "Norman Mailer was tipped off to show up later, timing his arrival to miss my father, with whom he was feuding. Toward the end of the night, Norman and Doc Humes got into a fistfight."

William's short list of published novels included the controversial Pulitzer Prize-winning The Confessions of Nat Turner in 1967 and 1979's Sophie's Choice, which received an Oscar-winning film adaptation starring Meryl Streep. In Reading My Father, Alexandra recalls growing up in the orbit of her father's fame (he and author James Jones were best friends for years; Frank Sinatra and Leonard Bernstein were house guests) as well as his vicious struggle with unipolar depression, an experience he chronicled in 1992's Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness.

Tonight at at 6:30 p.m. in SCAD's Ivy Hall, Styron will speak about the book, her father and sign copies of Reading My Father.

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