BOOKS ROUNDUP: Styron letters in new collection

Dec. 08, 2012 @ 02:12 PM

Novelist William Styron (1925-2006) had many connections to Duke University. He was a student at Duke in World War II, and, after his death, Duke’s library became the repository for many of his letters and papers. Rose Styron, his wife, and historian R. Blakeslee Gilpin have edited a new volume, “Selected Letters of William Styron” (Random House, $40). Drawing on papers from Duke, as well as archives from UNC, Yale and other libraries, this collection touches on Styron’s life as a student at Duke, and later, as the novelist who wrote “The Confessions of Nat Turner,” “Sophie’s Choice” and other major works.
This collection includes letters to his Duke teacher and mentor William Blackburn, as well as letters to fellow writers such as Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, John P. Marquand, James Jones and many more.
A few interesting letters of note in this vast work: In a 1968 letter he takes a psychiatrist to task for accusations that “Nat Turner” was an “invitation for lynching.” In a later letter to Roth, Styron castigates critics Norman Podhoretz and Irving Howe for their harsh critiques of “Portnoy’s Complaint,” as well as their criticism of “Nat Turner.”
Styron also had a few words to say about the proposed Nixon papers repository at Duke, which are included in this book.

Here are some other readings and events:
-- Durham author Ted Obomanu, author of “Drive to Passion,” has been invited to present his book at the 2013 Virginia Festival of the Book in March in Charlottesville, Va. “Drive to Passion” is a collection of biographies examining how leaders in certain fields obtained their goals. Obomanu also will serve on a panel of authors at the festival.

-- The Piedmont Laureate program has reopened its call for applications from authors of children’s literature for 2013. Authors must be residents of Alamance, Durham, Orange or Wake counties. The range of literature has been expanded to target children of all ages, up to 18. The deadline to apply is Jan. 11, 2013. To apply, visit
Authors who have already applied to be the 2013 Piedmont Laureate need not reapply. These applications remain under consideration.
The Piedmont Laureate program’s mission is "to promote awareness and heighten appreciation for excellence in the literary arts throughout the Piedmont region."
The Laureate will receive a stipend of $6,500 and serve starting in March through the end of 2013. Activities of the laureate will include presenting readings and workshops, encouraging creative writing, and promoting literature at public events.

-- Michael De Los Santos of Durham has published “My Heart Warrior: Living with HLHS through a Father’s Eyes,” which he says is a chronicle of the journey his family went through with their son Aaron, who passed away in May this year at the age of  6 months.  De Los Santos plans to give 30 percent of the royalties from the book to the Ronald McDonald House of Durham and the Cardiology Department of Duke Children's Hospital.  He hopes to raise $1,000 by the end of the year to be donated in his son’s  memory.
For more information on the book, visit

-- North Carolina poet and Durham native David Rigsbee has received a $25,000 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship. The award is Rigsbee’s second NEA fellowship.
His poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Southern Review, and other journals. His 2010 book of poems, “The Red Tower:  New and Selected Poems,”  was awarded the Oscar Allen Young Award from the N.C. Poetry Society as best book by a North Carolinian in 2010.

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