Thursday, November 02, 2006

William Styron: 1925 - 2006

William Styron was my hero: he was born and raised in the Tidewater, was probably the best novelist to come out of Virginia, and is the author of my favorite passage in American literature, which is very dear to my heart:
There were wide barren fields now, a patch of river to the south, the Rappahannock; this was territory that they knew, where one lane, one house or barn, gliding soundlessly past the car's vaultlike silence, only announced another house or lane or barn a few yards farther on, each more familiar as they drew closer to home. This was the Northern Neck, a land of prim pastoral fences, virgin timber, grazing sheep and Anglo-Saxons: these, the last, spoke in slumbrous Elizabethan accents, rose at dawn, went to bed at dusk, and maintained, with Calvinist passion, their traditional intolerance of evil. Most were Presbyterians and Baptists, many were Episcopalians, and all prayed and hunted quail with equal fervor and died healthily of heart failure at an advanced age; destiny had given them a peaceful and unvanquished land to live in, free of railroads and big-city ways and the meretricious lures of the flesh, and when they died they died, for the most part, in contentment, shriven of their moderate, parochial sins. They were bounded by two rivers and the sky, and were as chary of the hinterland as of the deepest heart of Africa. A sturdy and honest curiosity filled their minds, provided the objects of such were not exotic or from the North, and the smell of sea filled their days; exacting in all matters, moral but never harsh, they lived in harmony with nature and called themselves the last Americans.

Please, do yourself a favor and go out and buy a copy of Lie Down in Darkness. You won't regret it.

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