William Styron, the Marines & me
August 2, 2009
Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Sophie’s Choice, William Styron, died in 2006 but new work continues to be published.
Last year it was a collection of personal essays, Havannas in Camelot. This year it’s a collection of short fiction to be published in October: The Suicide Run: Five Tales of the Marine Corps.
I collect Styron’s work, and I arrived at that collecting when I stumbled upon a first edition of his short novel The Long March while browsing a rare books store. I got that impulsive urge to own the book. So I bought it for $90.
The Long March (1952) is Styron’s second book after the novel Lie Down in Darkness (1951).
Here’s the catch: I thought I bought the first edition of The Long March, but I didn’t. At least, not the true first.
Had I done some research (and not leaped to satisfy the urge), I would’ve known the true first came out in paperback. The edition I purchased was the first hardcover edition, published in March 1968, 16 years later.
The hardcover copyright page states copyright as 1952 but not the 1968 print date.
A few years later, I came upon that true first and learned my mistake. A Modern Library Paperback. This one was signed by Styron on the title page and also included a hand-written note to the owner on Styron’s personal stationery from 12 Rucum Road, Roxbury, CT 06783.
Oh the urge… I bought it for $350. (Yes, a paperback, albeit a signed paperback with a note. Perhaps we best not go there.)
On February 26, 1953, Norman Mailer wrote a letter to Styron and said this about The Long March:
“I think it’s just terrific, how good I’m almost embarrassed to say, but as a modest estimate it’s certainly as good an eighty pages as any American has written since the war, and really I think it’s much more than that. You watch. It’s going to last and last and last.”