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Havanas in Camelot: Personal Essays Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 8, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

I was aware that this was a contraband item under the embargo against Cuban goods and that the embargo had been promulgated by the very man who had just pressed the cigar into my hand, writes Styron about John F. Kennedy in the title essay of this fine new collection of mostly previously published work. Combined with Styron's muscular yet subtle language, a sense of self-revelation and insider clarity infuses the 14 essays like a lungful of fresh, crisp air. Mostly assembled by Styron shortly before his death in 2006, these perfectly crafted and deeply expressive essays range effortlessly from smoking the aforementioned stogies with JFK to his run-ins with editors during the editing of his first novel, Lie Down in Darkness. In one essay he describes a visit to Marilyn Monroe's grave with noted literary hellion Terry Southern: he was scowling through his shades, looking fierce and, as always, a little confused and lost but, in any case... like a man already dreaming up wicked ideas. Styron is known to most readers for his bestselling novels and painful etching of his bouts with crippling depression in Darkness Visible. These essays open up an entirely new territory to explore and appreciate for the fan and general reader alike. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

In his last year Styron (1925–2006) was working on a retrospective collection of personal essays from the 1980s and 1990s, a project subsequently completed by his widow, Rose. The result is an exhilarating parade of pithy, wry, and revealing true tales that remind us with a jolt of just how spirited, incisive, and spit-shined a writer Styron was. A southerner and the grandson of a slave owner, he joined the marines at 17, published his first novel at 26, chafed at being hailed as an heir to Faulkner, and stirred up considerable controversy with The Confessions of Nat Turner (1967) and Sophie’s Choice (1979). In his essays, Styron is strategically charming. The collection’s curious title is plucked from an arresting remembrance of President John F. Kennedy and his passion for Cuban cigars. Styron also pays piquant tribute to Mark Twain, Truman Capote, and James Baldwin; praises walking as a catalyst for creativity; and tells harrowing, hilarious, and socially incisive tales about a youthful medical scare and a trip to Chicago to visit Nelson Algren, whose idea of fun was a tour of Cook County Jail’s Death Row. Beneath the wonderfully diverting dazzle of his wit and virtuosity, Styron addresses crucial matters of freedom, art, and empathy. --Donna Seaman
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (April 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067197
  • ASIN: B005UVW5I4
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,714,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Styron (1925-2006) , a native of the Virginia Tidewater, was a graduate of Duke University and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. His books include Lie Down in Darkness, The Long March, Set This House on Fire, The Confessions of Nat Turner, Sophie's Choice, This Quiet Dust, Darkness Visible, and A Tidewater Morning. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Howells Medal, the American Book Award, the Legion d'Honneur, and the Witness to Justice Award from the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation. With his wife, the poet and activist Rose Styron, he lived for most of his adult life in Roxbury, Connecticut, and in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, where he is buried.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although he wrote precious little, compared to some of his contemporaries, surely William Styron was one of the best American writers of his generation and produced fiction that will be read as long as there are any readers left. I would argue that SOPHIE'S CHOICE is one of the ten best twentieth century novels by an American writer even though Shelby Foote didn't care for it. It is a treat then to have this posthumous collection of essays to read, most of which have been previously published in magazines and newspapers. There are fourteen in all on a variety of subjects. In "Havanas in Camelot," the first essay included and from which the volume is named, Mr. Styron manages to capture the magic of the short Kennedy years and makes us realize that we will probably never see such glamour in government again. In his essays on other writers, James Baldwin who lived at his home briefly, Truman Capote whom he graciously acknowledges affected his own writing-- at least his first novel LIE DOWN IN DARKNESS-- and Mark Twain, Styron reveals a great deal about himself, that he apparently had both great respect and affection for other writers sans jealousy, a quality not always found in even the most talented and successful of artists.

These essays are called "personal," as indeed they are. Mr. Styron, as is the case with many writers whose background is Southern, does not always take the shortest route home; but the walk is always a pleasant one. I had not seen the phrase "sine qua non" in print in years. It is thrilling to see Ayn Rand described as "hectoring." And the writer's view of the Christian religion is worth remembering. He sees it, at least in its "puritanical rigors--as a conspiracy to deny its adherents their fulfillment as human beings. . .
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Todd Nolan on April 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This brief collection of essays and personal reminiscences will bring up memories of your own if you've read and enjoyed Styron's novels, and his previous essays/memoirs collection, "This Quiet Dust". My favorite novelist of the second half of the 20th century, I'm in that admiring group that wants to read every scrap that he wrote; but Styron writes so well, and draws the reader in with his self-effacing humor & curiosity about matters large and small, I can see those who've never read his novels finding these pieces worthwhile. Though the essays on Mitterand, Mark Twain, and the daily dog-walk were the highlights for me, I suppose the JFK stories will hold the most interest for the majority of readers, and the publisher was pushing that side of the book in advance of the release. Styron had that gift of making one take interest in ideas and subjects that one never took notice of or bothered with before. Admirers and fans will want this, however short the book may be, but newcomers to his writing may want to start with the superior collection of short pieces, "This Quiet Dust". And then dive into some of the english language's greatest novels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr. R.P. Forsberg on February 9, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some essays are truly first rate and worth reading - of interest to general public. However, some are maybe a bit too personal and sort of miss the mark for those who aren't into Styron's life.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Styron's pieces on his various experiences are still fresh and vivid. He holds nothing back, and his opinions are thought provoking.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Greg on January 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Superb book by a great writer. William Styron's command of the English language is unsurpassed. Wish he would have written more.
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