After the great success in 1990 ofDarkness Visible, his memoir of depression and recovery, William Styron wrote more frequently in an introspective, autobiographical mode. Havanas in Camelot brings together fourteen of his personal essays, including a reminiscence of his brief friendship with John F. Kennedy; a recollection of the power and ceremony on display at the inauguration of Francois Mitterrand; memoirs of Truman Capote, James Baldwin, and Terry Southern; a meditation on Mark Twain; an account of Styron's daily walks with his dog; and an evocation of his summer home on Martha's Vineyard. Styron's essays touch on the great themes of his fiction-racial oppression, slavery, and the Holocaust-but for the most part they address other subjects: bowdlerizations of history, literary lists, childhood moviegoing, the censoring of his own work, and the pursuit of celebrity fetish objects. These essays, which reveal a reflective and humorous side of Styron's nature, make possible a fuller assessment of this enigmatic man of American letters.
"I was aware that this was a contraband item under the embargo against Cuban goods and that the embargo had been promulgated by the very man who had just pressed the cigar into my hand," writes Styron about John F. Kennedy in the title essay of this fine new collection of mostly previously published work. Combined with Styron's muscular yet subtle language, a sense of self-revelation and insider clarity infuses the 14 essays like a lungful of fresh, crisp air. Mostly assembled by Styron shortly before his death in 2006, these perfectly crafted and deeply expressive essays range effortlessly from smoking the aforementioned stogies with JFK to his run-ins with editors during the editing of his first novel, Lie Down in Darkness. In one essay he describes a visit to Marilyn Monroe's grave with noted literary hellion Terry Southern: "he was scowling through his shades, looking fierce and, as always, a little confused and lost but, in any case... like a man already dreaming up wicked ideas." Styron is known to most readers for his bestselling novels and painful etching of his bouts with crippling depression in Darkness Visible. These essays open up an entirely new territory to explore and appreciate for the fan and general reader alike. (Apr.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 07, 2008
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