"WITH BEST WISHES AND DEEP PRESBYTERIAN FELLOWSHIP": FIRST EDITION OF THE LONG MARCH, INSCRIBED BY WILLIAM STYRON
STYRON, William. The Long March. New York: Random House, 1952. Slim octavo, original pictorial white paper wrappers. $600.
First edition of this novella, a cutting indictment of military irrationality, inscribed on the printed endpaper to a New York crime report and author: "To John Kobler with best wishes and deep Presbyterian fellowship. Bill Styron."
"The idea of personal combat and the ideal of the gentleman warrior were never far from Styron's consciousness; as early as his second novel, The Long March, he was writing about war" (Los Angeles Times). "Like other novelists born in the 1920s, almost all of whom came under the influence of Hemingway, Styron took warfare as a given subject… [The Long March] turns on the order made to a battalion of marines to undertake a pointless, gruelling 36-mile march from one post to another, while a group of fellow soldiers lies dead, killed in an accidental explosion. The book expresses Styron's dislike of the military experience and must originally have appeared as a reproof to more bullish colleagues such as Norman Mailer and James Jones who, while exposing the brutality of battle, did so in such a way as to aggrandise it. 'None of that Hemingway crap for me,' says the hero of The Long March, Captain Mannix, with whom Styron has identified himself. Like Hemingway, however, he has remained preoccupied by the imaginative experience of war, and the possibility of its literary expression" (The Guardian). For his many literary accomplishments, evident here, The Wall Street Journal called Styron "the foremost writer of his generation." This copy is inscribed to John Kobler, a New York writer and military veteran—like Styron—known for his early newspaper crime reportage which culminated in a striking biography of Al Capone. Kobler was a master of true crime and wrote extensively on the subject, but he also wrote biographies including a notable work on Scottish anatomist and surgeon John Hunter. Both Kobler and Styron were Presbyterians, a designation that Styron felt made him an outsider in New York. When William Styron was a child, the Styrons "attended the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Newport News. William Styron went to Sunday school there and, in his early teens, after he had been confirmed as a church member, attended services for the full congregation. His religious instruction was convention and, in the manner of most Presbyterian churches of the time, quite straightforward and rational in presentation. There was little ceremony in Presbyterian services; the church struck him, even as a boy, as offering little that appealed to his emotion or his spirit" (West, William Styron: A Life). In his teenage years, Styron became enthralled by the African American churches in his community, listening to evangelical sermons on local radio, spying on baptist service, and eventually becoming an attendee at an A.M.E. church. It took until college and his admission into a fraternity for him to fall back into the Presbyterian mold—but his eye was caught once again by a Black Presbyterian pastor and his good works in the community. Styron's eclectic and cross-racial religious experiences resulted in a deeply reflective relationship with Presbyterianism that would persist throughout his life and influenced his work. Bookplate of inscribee. Owner ink notation.
Minor offsetting to endpapers, slight soiling to wrappers, split to front joint. A near-fine inscribed copy.