William Styron in Letters, Part 4



To George Plimpton

September 18, 1953 Ravello, Italy

Dear George:

Last night I did something which I only do once or twice in a generation: I stayed up all night with a bottle of Schenley’s and watched the dawn. That sort of thing is a perverse, masochistic business and at around 9 A.M. I was entertaining the idea of writing two or three novels before I went to bed, but oblivion closed in an hour later, and I just woke up. It is now almost sunset. This is mainly by way of saying that if this letter doesn’t have a Chesterfieldian elegance + grace you will at least have been apprised of the reason.

My main reason for writing this letter is one-fold, I have been forced down certain channels of contemplation by a recent communiqué from John (“The Second Happiest Day”) Phillips, to use current journalese. Primarily, I was interested in his remarks about a Hemingway issue of PR; and I think at this point and without further ado I can shoulder my burden as advisory editor of the snappiest little mag on the Rive Gauche and say that I think it’s a great idea. Peter and THG apparently (according to Marquand) are not so enthusiastic about the proposition; as for me I think that if you really have enough interesting, fresh material in the offing (it must be interesting, fresh, original, and there must be quite a bit of it) then it might be one of the literary coups of all time. As Marquand said, print the word Hemingway in neon all over each page and both covers. Anything goes. I must admit that such an issue would slightly compromise my Ringing Assertion in the first preface about printing new talent; but this thing, if it’s at all as good as Marquand makes out, sounds too good to be missed and will put PR in the same league with transition, Broom, Time, Fortune, and other top-notchers. Anyway, you have my full support if that means anything, and I hope you’ll get snapping soon and also let me know how things develop.

Rose and I are having a lovely time down here with our Gorgeous Panorama, rosé wine, flies and other items. We extend to you a cordial invitation to join us anytime this autumn; as you may have heard from Peter, Ravello really is delicious and it would be a great pleasure to have you here if you can manage a short vacation (you can fly from Paris to Naples). Meanwhile I’m writing a long novelette which, when it’s finished, should have some of the pace of Death in Venice and a little of The Red Badge of Courage surface savvy. Thanks, incidentally, for the nice remarks in the U.S. Lives PR. It renews my faith in American literature. Also, thank Mr. Mathieu, if you see him, for sending me the issue. Let me hear from you when you get the chance.



P.S. The No. 3 PR is easily the best yet. Like movies, it seems to be getting better and better.

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.