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Set This House on Fire by William Styron

Set This House on Fire (original 1960; edition 1993)

by William Styron

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299337,504 (3.42)18
Title:Set This House on Fire
Authors:William Styron
Info:Vintage (1993), Paperback, 528 pages
Collections:Your library

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Set This House On Fire by William Styron (1960)



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I must confess, this wasn’t the book I was looking for when I wandered out into the stacks at the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library with my sights set on William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice. (I’d always enjoyed the movie immensely and wanted, finally, to give the author his due.) Unfortunately, my sights were not to be satisfied: Sophie’s Choice was out; and so, I settled for Styron’s Set This House on Fire, a book I’d never even heard of and consequently knew nothing about.

In spite of the rave reviews and blurbs on both the front and back covers of the book, I shouldn’t have bothered.

There are certainly moments and entire passages that let a reader understand why Styron has the reputation he has. But these are too few and far between.

My honest opinion? Styron could’ve told this story much more effectively as a short—or at least as a novella. It didn’t need (or merit) a novel of over 500 pages in small print. And why his three principal characters, all American, insist on inserting the odd Italian word into their dialogue is entirely beyond me. (Moreover, I suspect—though, lacking reference books at this point, can’t confirm—that Styron’s Italian leaves a lot to be desired. Most of it reads like transcriptions directly from the English.)

Will I still hunt down Sophie’s Choice? No doubt. But I’ll now hunt it down with a skeptical eye—and in the hope that Styron will have enlisted the help of a better editor than he had for Set This House on Fire.

Brooklyn, NY
( )
  RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
Three and a half stars. ( )
  tercat | Nov 19, 2013 |
1020 Set This House on Fire, by William Styron (read 31 Aug 1969) I found this book long and not interesting, but I did no post-reading note on it so I cannot tell you much more. But I well remember I was distinctly unimpressed by characters I did not admire cavorting in Italy, as I recall. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jul 8, 2009 |
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Styron, Williamprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lahtinen, Aarne T. K.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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. . . that of that providence of God that studies the life of every weed and worm and ant and spider and toad and viper there should never, never any beam flow out upon me; that that God who looked upon me when I was nothing and called me when I was not, as though I had been, out of the womb and depth of darkness, will not look upon me now, when though a miserable and a banished and a damned creature, yet I am his creature still and contribute something to his glory even in my damnation; that that God who hath often looked upon me in my foulest uncleanness and when I had shut out the eye of the day, the sun, and the eye of the night, the taper, and the eyes of all the world with curtains and windows and doors, did yet see me and see me in mercy by making me see that he saw me and sometimes brought me to a present remorse and (for that time) to a forbearing of that sin, should so turn himself from me to his glorious saints and angels as that no saint nor angel nor Christ Jesus himself should ever pray him to look towards me, never remember him that such a soul there is; that that God who hath so often said to my soul, Oudre morieris? why wilt thou die? and so often sworn to my soul, Vivit Dominus, as the Lord liveth, I would not have thee die but live, will neither let me die nor let me live, but die an everlasting life and live an everlasting death; that that God who, when he could not get into me by standing and knocking, by his ordinary means of entering, by his word, his mercies, hath applied his judgments and hath shaked the house, this body, with agues and palsies, and set this house on fire with fevers and calentures, and frighted the master of the house, my soul, with horrors and heavy apprehensions and so made an entrance into me; that that God should frustrate all his own purposes and practices upon me and leave me and cast me away as though I had cost him nothing; that this God at last should let this soul go away as a smoke, as a vapor, as a bubble; and that then this soul cannot be a smoke, a vapor, nor a bubble, but must lie in darkness as long as the Lord of light is light itself, and never spark of that light reach to my soul; what Tophet is not paradise, what brimstone is not amber, what gnashing is not a comfort, what gnawing of the worm is not a tickling, what torment is not a marriage bed to this damnation, to be secluded eternally, eternally, eternally from the sight of God? [John Donne, Dean of St. Paul's, "To the Earle of Carlile, and his Company, at Sion" - (from Sermon LXXVI - On Falling Out of God’s Hand)]
L'ambizione del mio compito non mi impedi di fare molti sbagli
- - With love and gratitude to MY WIFE ROSE MY FATHER and WILLIAM BLACKBURN this book is dedicated
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Sambuco. Of the drive from Salerno to Sambuco, Nagel's Italy has this to say: "The road is hewn nearly the whole way in the cliffs of the coast.
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