The career of William Styron (1925–2006) was highlighted by a quartet of long, ambitious, and widely praised novels, including the sensational debut Lie Down in Darkness (1951) and the Pulitzer Prize–winning Confessions of Nat Turner (1967). It would be fair to assume, on the basis of such a record, that Styron’s legacy is built on his fiction.

Yet, nine years after his death, our sense of his accomplishments has grown murky. Posthumous books have come fast and furious, but few have emphasized the main current of his work—that is, as a novelist and short story writer. Instead, Styron’s heirs have brought out a selection of personal essays (2008’s Havanas in Camelot), a compilation of his correspondence (2012’s Selected Letters), and now My Generation, a gargantuan assemblage of essays and reviews of all kinds. (The sole exception is...


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