Hardcover: 304 pages
READING MY FATHER: A MEMOIR
Few novelists of the past 50 years have enjoyed the huge success and lengthy renown of William Styron. With Sophie’s Choice, Lie Down in Darkness, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Confessions of Nat Turner, Styron established himself as a masterful chronicler of the American experience. But his gift for fiction came at a heavy price. The last twenty-five years of Styron’s life were marked by episodes of devastating depression, the first of which he documented with stunning candor in Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness. READING MY FATHER (Scribner; on-sale April 19, 2011) is a portrait of this towering, mesmerizing, occasionally crippled man by his youngest daughter, Alexandra Styron, wrought with intimacy, incisiveness, integrity, and love.
A drinker, a carouser, and above all “a high priest at the altar of fiction,” William Styron helped define the concept of the Big Male Writer, hewing the iconography which gave so much of twentieth century American fiction a muscular, glamorous aura. In constant pursuit of The Great Novel, he and his work were the dominant force in his family’s life, his turbulent moods the weather in their ecosystem. The challenge, and the theme of Alexandra’s childhood, was to navigate the tempest of her father’s titanic personality. But when depression pulled Styron under, the rules—and the life his family had long known—would change completely.
Synthesizing discoveries made in her father’s Duke University archives with her own memories, some long forgotten, Alexandra offers a vivid look at the experiences that shaped William Styron’s life and his novels: the death of his mother; his precocious success with Lie Down in Darkness; his military service and his early loves. From Europe, where he helped found the Paris Review and met his wife, Rose, to New England where he would live out his storied career, William Styron is vivid in all his epic, tragic complexity in READING MY FATHER.
Expanding on a beloved New Yorker essay, and casting light, not judgment, Alexandra has written a memoir every bit as compelling and beautifully cadenced as her father’s novels, and with grace to spare.