Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Story Lost in the Author's Love Affair With Words

This posting will launch a series of reviews of books I have read, books that in large part will concentrate on that pantheon of writers considered great and from whom lesser-known writers have much to learn. I begin with the book I just finished reading this evening:  Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron

American author William Styron was a world-class wordsmith in league with F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner. But unlike Fitzgerald and Faulkner, his love affair with words often over-shadowed his story in Lie Down in Darkness, his critically acclaimed first novel, published in 1952 when he was 27, the work that launched him as a major American author.

I found the story to be so abstract, wearying and needlessly drawn out that I had to force myself to stay with it—I persisted only because this is the author of Sophie’s Choice (which I have read and loved) and The Confessions of Nat Turner (which I plan to read soon), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. I also stuck with it because Styron was a devotee of complexity of thoughts and feelings, and a master of unique and creative metaphors and descriptions. This book qualifies as a good primer for writers who wish to study how magnificent the English language can be at the hand of a genius of its usage.

I don’t always see eye to eye with professional literary critics, and this is just another case where I differ in my opinion as to the worth of a book. The way I see it, this book deserves five stars for the majesty of its prose, but no more than three stars for its story.

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