In 1995, the late novelist William Styron, best remembered as the author of Sophie's Choice and Confessions of Nat Turner, published in The New Yorker the essay "A Literary Forefather", in which he illustrated the parallels he saw between himself and one of his greatest inspirations.
"Our early surroundings possessed a surface sweetness and innocence - under which lay a turmoil we were pleased to expose - and we both grew up in villages on the banks of great rivers that dominated our lives," he wrote, referring to Twain's Mississippi River and his own James River in Tidewater, Virginia. Now this essay, and others, can be found in the brand-new collection Havanas in Camelot, reviewed yesterday in the Boston Globe.
Like Twain, Styron also grew up in the shadow of slavery (albeit a century later), living in a Southern culture with slaveholding in his family's history. And also like Twain, he wasn't afraid to deal with it in his writings.