Excursions Of A Bibliophile

What are u reading these days?

Havanas in Camelot – Personal Essays – William Styron

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on October 16, 2010

Well crafted personal essays are an absolute delight for reading and second to no other form of writing. However, as an art form this appears to be on the decline for I have not seen many collections being published these days. So I felt grateful when I found a copy of William Styron‘s ” Havanas in Camelot” – a collection of 14 initimable reminisces – for reading.

I am not a novice to the writing of Styron having read his magnum opus “Sophie’s Choice” – a book of staggering range and deeply moving quality. Besides treating the complex topics of thesuffering of Jews and the ignominy of slavery, “Sophie’s Choice” also has strong biographical streaks drawn from various phases of Styron’s life. This aspect of “Sophie’s Choice” has become clearer after reading ” Havanas in Camelot“. The title essay “Havanas In Camelot” is a fond reminscence of Styron’s interactions with President John F Kennedy who loved his cigars and had a high regard for Styron and his work. In a similar vein is the essay “Les Amis Du President” where Styron delves on his invitation to the inuaguration of President Mitterand’s term. Both go on to show that Styron was well regarded on both sides of the Atlantic as an accomplished man of letters. The essays “Celebrating Capote“, “Jimmy in the House” and “A Literary Forefather” are three insightful pieces on Truman Capote, James Baldwin and Mark Twain respectively, all whom Styron held in very high esteem and had a genuine admiration for their contribution to the literary landscape of America. “I’ll Have to Ask Indianapolis” is an entertaining read on the role of libraries and Styron’s struggles with the prudish perceptions around sexually explicit themes and language that he had to encounter not only for his writings but also in reading.   “A Case of The Great Pox” is a warm but poignant account of a mis- diagnosis of Syphilis that Styron was attributed with and the mental taruma that Styron had to encounter as a young marine. For anyone who is allergic to walking, Styron’s views in the essay “Walking with Aquinnah” will undoubtedly be a perfect antidote

Without exception each of these essays comes across as rich, vagrant, sensitive and insightful rambles of a sparkling and capacious mind which had a great felicity with language. Styron remains truthful and unabashedly straightforward in revealing his own personal details in a manner that fits an accomplished man of letters. As I read through them, I felt blessed to be affluent enough to own a copy of this wonderfully delightful book. Needless to say that in the humidor of my mind and the Camelot of my bookshelf, these 14 highest quality literary havanas of Styron will always be carefully preserved

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