Friday, December 20, 2013

William Styron, Kurt Vonnegut & Joseph Heller: War and Racism in American Culture (1997)

William Clark Styron, Jr. (June 11, 1925 -- November 1, 2006) was an American novelist and essayist who won major literary awards for his work.

For much of his career, Styron was best known for his novels, including:
Lie Down in Darkness (1951), his acclaimed first novel, published at age 26;
The Confessions of Nat Turner (1967), narrated by Nat Turner, the leader of an 1831 Virginia slave revolt;

Sophie's Choice (1979), a story "told through the eyes of a young aspiring writer from the South, about a Polish Catholic survivor of Auschwitz and her brilliant but troubled Jewish lover in postwar Brooklyn".

In 1985, he suffered his most serious bout with depression. Out of this grave and menacing experience, he was later able to write the memoir Darkness Visible (1990), the work Styron became best known for during the last two decades of his life.




In an episode of the television series Cheers titled "Thanksgiving Orphans" (this episode first aired in 1986), Styron is mentioned as an esteemed guest of a Thanksgiving party hosted by one of Diane Chambers' literature professors. Styron and other guests at the party are expected to recreate the first Thanksgiving.
Styron appears as himself in the 1993 movie Naked in New York
Styron's Darkness Visible was part of the plot of the 2013 film, Side Effects, a crime thriller about depression.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_...

Joseph Heller (May 1, 1923 -- December 12, 1999) was an American satirical novelist, short story writer, and playwright. The title of one of his works, Catch-22, entered the English lexicon to refer to a vicious circle wherein an absurd, no-win choice, particularly in situations in which the desired outcome of the choice is an impossibility, and regardless of choice, a same negative outcome is a certainty. Although he is remembered primarily for Catch-22, his other works center on the lives of various members of the middle class and remain examples of modern satire.

Joseph Heller was born in Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, the son of poor Jewish parents, Lena and Isaac Donald Heller, from Russia. Even as a child, he loved to write; as a teenager, he wrote a story about the Russian invasion of Finland and sent it to New York Daily News, which rejected it. At least one scholar suggests that he knew that he wanted to become a writer, after recalling that he received a children's version of the Iliad when he was ten. After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1941, Heller spent the next year working as a blacksmith's apprentice, a messenger boy, and a filing clerk. In 1942, at age 19, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. Two years later he was sent to the Italian Front, where he flew 60 combat missions as a B-25 bombardier. His Unit was the 488th Bombardment Squadron, 340th Bomb Group, 12th Air Force. Heller later remembered the war as "fun in the beginning... You got the feeling that there was something glorious about it." On his return home he "felt like a hero... People think it quite remarkable that I was in combat in an airplane and I flew sixty missions even though I tell them that the missions were largely milk runs." ("Milk runs" were combat missions, but mostly uneventful due to a lack of intense opposition from enemy anti-aircraft artillery or fighters.)

After the war, Heller studied English at the University of Southern California and NYU on the G.I. Bill. In 1949, he received his M.A. in English from Columbia University. Following his graduation, he spent a year as a Fulbright scholar at St Catherine's College, Oxford. After returning home, he taught composition at Pennsylvania State University for two years. He also taught fiction and dramatic writing at Yale. He then briefly worked for Time Inc., before taking a job as a copywriter at a small advertising agency, where he worked alongside future novelist Mary Higgins Clark. At home, Heller wrote. He was first published in 1948, when The Atlantic ran one of his short stories. That first story nearly won the "Atlantic First."

He was married to Shirley Held from 1945 to 1981 and they had two children, Erica (born 1952) and Ted (born 1956).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_H...

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (/ˈvɒnɨɡət/; November 11, 1922 -- April 11, 2007) was an American writer. His works such as Cat's Cradle (1963), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), and Breakfast of Champions (1973) blend satire, gallows humor, and science fiction. As a citizen he was a lifelong supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union and a critical pacifist intellectual. He was known for his humanist beliefs and was honorary president of the American Humanist Association.

The New York Times headline at the time of Vonnegut's passing called Vonnegut "the counterculture's novelist."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Von...
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