Posthumous Collection of Styron's Essays Has Roots in the Library

William Styron died at the end of 2006, but left behind a wonderful collection of essays, "Havanas in Camelot", reviewed here by The New York Times Michiko Kakutani.

Having enlisted at 17, but considered too much of a tenderfoot to send overseas, the United States Marine Corps introduced him “to the glories of the library.” He was sent first, instead, to a military-sponsored college program at Duke University, “which then, as now, possessed one of the great college libraries of America.” Possessed of “a prevision of himself as being among the fallen martyrs” in the Pacific theater, he began to read voraciously, regarding the books in the Duke library as “the rocks and boulders” he could cling to against his “onrushing sense of doom and mortality.”

“I read everything I could lay my hands on,” he remembers, some 50 years later. “Even today I can recall the slightly blind and bloodshot perception I had of the vaulted Gothic reading room, overheated, the smell of glue and sweat and stale documents, winter coughs, whispers, the clock ticking toward midnight as I raised my eyes over the edge of ‘Crime and Punishment.’ The library became my hangout, my private club, my sanctuary, the place of my salvation; during the many months I was at Duke, I felt that when I was reading in the library I was sheltered from the world and from the evil winds of the future; no harm could come to me there.”

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