After Styron received the French Legion of Honor in ’87, his pals on Martha’s Vineyard threw their own ceremony. “We bestowed the award on him, but instead of swords we used breadsticks,” says columnist Art Buchwald, a close friend. “Bill just loved it.”
However he was honored, Styron, who died Nov. 1 at 81, was a giant of American literature. Best known for the Holocaust epic Sophie’s Choice, he “had a personal sense of the gulfs and hazards that lie beneath the surface of social life,” says friend Norman Mailer. Married for 43 years to poet Rose (they had four children), Styron “would want to be remembered for his [eight] books,” says Buchwald, “and his books will live on forever.”
• Lie Down in Darkness (’51): Debut novel that taps his southern roots.
• The Confessions of Nat Turner (’67): Story of a rebel slave.
• Sophie’s Choice (’79): Meryl Streep won an Oscar for the title role.
• Darkness Visible (’90): An intimate memoir about depression.