William Styron, the Marines & me

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.

The first 'first' I purchased
The 1968 hardcover first

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. 

The second 'true first' I purchased
The 1952 true first

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.)

For all this collecting nonsense, the real point is to highlight that Styron’s acclaimed work on the Marine Corps – prior to this upcoming October story collection –  is his 1952 short novel about a 36-mile forced Marine Corps march in the Carolinas.

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.”