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William Styron's best writing resonates with an emotional honesty that strives for a greater, universal truth. In his fiction Styron has relied on memories of his Virginia childhood and early adult life in New York City and Europe as starting points for broader novels. With his nonfiction, he has been more engaged in the political and social events of his time. Regardless of the form, his writing has always attracted attention—and often controversy.
May Swenson was born on 28 May 1913 in Logan, Utah, to Dan and Margaret (Helberg) Swenson. She attended Utah State Agricultural College, not far from her home; her father was an assistant in the college's Woodwork Department. The eldest of a large Mormon family, she became skeptical of her faith while in college.
Sympathy and Empathy
Charles Robert Baker
The novels of Booth Tarkington were read by millions of Americans around the turn of the twentieth century, though today his name is known mostly to historians of American literature and to those of the oldest generation whose youthful reading included Tarkington's delightful series of the boyhood adventures of Penrod. His best-known adult novel, The Magnificent Ambersons (1918), has found readers through the decades as well.
Edward Halsey Foster
Allen Tate—born John Orley Allen Tate on 19 November 1899 in Winchester, a rural town in Kentucky—was descended from old southern stock. A defender of the agrarian South against the urban, industrialized North, he was best known as a poet and a novelist, but he was also a distinguished editor, teacher, and critic, whose contributions to the New Criticism helped to make it the dominant American critical discourse at midcentury. Tate's father was a businessman whose turbulent character was matched by his extravagant financial speculations. Tate's mother, in contrast, was a Virginia aristocrat, the descendent of genteel patrician families. The parents were very different temperamentally, and during Tate's childhood they separated. Tate's mother took charge of her shy, intellectually inclined son, even moving with him to college and keeping house there for him.
Arnold E. Sabatelli
James Tate is arguably one of the most influential poets of his generation. In 1967 he won the coveted Yale Younger Poets Award, one of the youngest writers ever to receive that honor. (He was a graduate student at the Iowa Writers Workshop at the time.) His book The Lost Pilot, published the same year, set the tone for the body of his poetry. Surreal, funny, irreverent, and at times almost wholly inaccessible, Tate's poetry has not strayed far from the approach and tone of his earliest work.
Adam Scott Miller
During his lifetime of eighty-seven years, Edward Taylor, a Puritan minister and poet, wrote more than forty thousand lines of verse. Much of Taylor's poetry is devotional and was composed during the course of frequent meditative exercises. As a result, he chose to keep his work private but left his manuscripts to his grandson, who eventually deposited them in the Yale University library. They remained there until their discovery in 1937. Subsequent critical attention has declared Taylor's verse to be colonial America's best poetry.
Because he was born in Tennessee and much of his work is set there, Peter Taylor is unquestionably a southern writer. But his fiction differs from that of the other significant writers of the southern literary renaissance of the 1920s through the 1960s in its focus on urban and suburban settings of the Upper South rather than on the rural life of the Deep South. Taylor was younger than William Faulkner, the great master of southern and, indeed, of American fiction, and younger than the members of the South's two preeminent literary groups, the Fugitive poets and the Agrarians. As a result, the shadows of the Civil War and Reconstruction fall less boldly upon his work than on the work of those older writers, who had one foot in the nineteenth century and one in the twentieth. Taylor's sympathetic concern with the circumstances of blacks and women place him firmly in the twentieth century. (His other large theme of class shows up in almost every period and school of American literature.)