Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Recalling Childhood as a Styron

by Dwight Garner, New York Times, April 19, 2011
When Alexandra Styron, (pic left - Rex Bonomelli)the youngest of the novelist William Styron’s four children, was growing up, she writes in her new memoir, there was one inviolate rule in the house: “Don’t ask Daddy about his work.”
By Alexandra Styron
Illustrated. 285 pages. Scribner. $25.

This was no simple edict to live by. Styron (1925-2006) toiled on his major books for a decade or more, and his roiling moods were determined by how well a day’s writing had gone. The Next Book always became, Ms. Styron writes, “a kind of stolid permanence in our home, like a sofa around which we were subconsciously arrayed.” His kids tiptoed around like wary cats.

Ms. Styron’s ardent, sophisticated and entirely winning memoir, “Reading My Father,” is a pointillistic accounting of the drama that brewed throughout her young life. That drama was dictated, she writes, by the “cloven-footed madness” that sometimes took root in her father’s cranium.

On one level, Ms. Styron, now 44, and her siblings led charmed, sun-kissed, haute bohemian lives. Their handsome father was a major novelist, the author of the elegiac “Lie Down in Darkness” (1951), written when he was 26, and other books. Their mother, Rose Styron, was beautiful, wealthy and charming, and so big a believer in fun, Ms. Styron writes, that she “would have let me set my hair on fire if I told her that I wanted to.”       

Full story at New York Times.

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