When he died this week, William Styron hadn't published a full-length work of fiction since 1979. But that book was Sophie's Choice. If you haven’t read it, do. (Full disclosure - you'll probably have to buy it used - try half.com) The book is set after the World War II. The Sophie is a Polish Christian refugee that a young man meets - and falls in love with - in New York. He gradually leans a secret - that when she enterd a concentration camp, Sophie had two children. She was forced to choose which one would live and which one would go to the gas chamber. The movie was pretty good, but the book is far, far better. It was a book that captured me for weeks.
After surviving World War II himself (only in Japan), Styron took an editing position with McGraw-Hill in New York City. He later recalled the misery of this work in an autobiographical passage of Sophie's Choice. He was fired for "for slovenly appearance, not wearing a hat, and reading the New York Post."
Unlike Gary Paulsen, Styron didn't necessarily live what he wrote about. At his studio in Roxbury, he posted a copy of a note that Flaubert, the great French writer, sent his mistress: "Be regular and ordinary in your life, like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work."