William Styron

April 28, 2011

Reading a review of William Styron by his daughter. It seems like Styron’s obsession was his place in American literary history. His friends included most of the American literary figures of the day. What struck me was the smallness of this literary world. It has all the ear marks of an elitist class. The same thing has struck me about the ‘literary class’ in Canada. Perhaps this is true in all countries. But why writers would find a room filled with other writers of interest leaves me perplexed. Anyone who has been to a party of teachers, or lawyers, or doctors knows how dreadfully dull the conversations become. Shop talk takes over. Or some drunken fool decides to defend some outrageous point of view to stir debate. Or perhaps I just don’t like parties. Styron himself is a paradox. In some ways he appears to be someone who likes to get down to brass tacks. But in reading Lie Down In Darkness I was filled with the nausea of intellectual pretentiousness. (Not as bad as Roberston Davies’  Fifth Business, but bad enough). I recall one of my philosophy professors referring to the English Department as grade B philosophers. And that’s how Styron affects me.

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