The Daily


William Styron in Letters, Part 2

December 4, 2012 | by

Rose Burgunder and William Styron.

To John P. Marquand, Jr.

April 17, 1953 Rome, Italy

Dear Jack:

I received your telegram, and I must say that Rose and I feel that there would be nothing more delightful than to play Byron with you for a while, and we were especially intrigued by the line which said a special tour was being arranged, or would be arranged, “in our honor,” which conjured up visions of open, bullet-proof sedans, police escorts, and jonquils being thrown into our faces by a frantic populace. It would indeed be nice. But we have talked this thing over and have decided that in view of the fact that we will probably be getting married within the next few weeks, and that Rose’s brother and wife are expected at any moment, it would put a strain on our nervous resources to come, at least my nervous resources, already depleted by a soggy, constant drunkenness brought on in part by the prospect of marriage, by insomnia, by clots, and by a general spiritual enervation resulting from the realization that already, going on 28, I am a wash-up as a writer and fit only to do the “Recent & Readable” part of the book section in Time. In other words, I will be going through a crisis this spring and although I don’t doubt that Greece is an excellent place to weather such a storm, I hope you can understand my position. I hope also, by the way, that when you finish diddling your Greek lady-in-waiting you will come back to Rome in time to take part in the shoddy ceremony which is due to be enacted in the city hall. That will be some time toward the end of this month, no doubt, or the first week or so in May.

Meanwhile Guinzburg has gathered his clots together and has gone back to Paris after a long stay here—which he alternated between the Academy and the Condons. He was the picture of health as he took off for Nice; I still haven’t gotten my tire.

None of the charter subscribers have received copies of The Paris Review and are kicking like hell. I don’t know who’s responsible for this fuck-up. Did you see the big spread on the rag two weeks ago in Newsweek?

The Matthiessens have given birth to a big manchild named Luke. We talked to them on the phone and they said it was as easy as pie. They’ve decided to come to Ravello in June. Why don’t you, too?

You’ve been selling quite handsomely, according to the Times best-seller list—this you no doubt know. I never got above No. 7, but of course I had that prick Salinger as competition. Pretty soon you’ll have more money than Bing Crosby. Lots of people reading it in Rome, according to the Lion Bookshop.

Irwin Shaw is living here, ensconced in the most hideous apartment in Parioli. He promises me a wedding shindig, so you’d better be here for the blowout.

In the meantime most of the creeps have crept away from the academy for their spring bone-hunt, leaving it clean except for a couple of seedy art historians and myself, who is struggling manfully with his destiny, and who, along with Rose, is looking forward to seeing you again sometime soon.



From Selected Letters of William Styron, edited by Rose Styron with R. Blakeslee Gilpin. Copyright © 2012 by Rose Styron. Reprinted by arrangement with Random House. All rights reserved.





  1. Joe Carlson | December 4, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    “You’ve been selling quite handsomely, according to the Times best-seller list—this you no doubt know. I never got above No. 7, but of course I had that prick Salinger as competition.”
    He must be referring to the year 1951 when both THE CATCHER IN THE RYE and LIE DOWN IN DARKNESS were published. When was the last time two novels of such quality were competing for the top ten spots?

  2. Shelley | December 4, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    “My nervous resources”–that’s the tell for a writer.

    As is “jonquils.”

  3. M. J. Moore | December 4, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Indeed, the year 1951 was phenomenal for new novels by American authors. In addition to Styron’s LIE DOWN IN DARKNESS and Salinger’s CATCHER IN THE RYE, there was James Jones’s FROM HERE TO ETERNITY and also something memorable by Herman Wouk: THE CAINE MUTINY. Plenty of other important works were also published. When JJ won that year’s National Book Award for FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, his fellow nominees were Salinger and Wouk. Extraordinary era!

  4. Joe Carlson | December 4, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    James Agee — The Morning Watch
    Truman Capote — The Grass Harp
    William Faulkner — Requiem for a Nun
    Caroline Gordon — The Strange Children
    Thomas Mann — The Holy Sinner
    John P. Marquand — Melville Goodwin USA
    J.D. Salinger — The Catcher in the Rye
    William Styron — Lie Down in Darkness
    Jessamyn West — The Witch Diggers
    Herman Wouk — The Caine Mutiny

  5. Joe Carlson | December 4, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    And, of course, the winner James Jones!

  6. katie rehkopf | March 12, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    I am enthralled. I am 42 and just coming to know all of this material. I have Alex Styron’s memoir to thank. I found it at the thrift shop and it has turned me onto a whole new world.

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