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Sophie's Choice Paperback – Mar 3 1992

4.5 out of 5 stars 106 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (March 3 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679736379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679736370
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 106 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #31,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"Students preparing research papers and students boning up for class will reach eagerly for these well-designed additions to accessible literary criticism for high school students." --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Born at Newport News, Virginia, in 1925, William Styron was educated at Duke University. He served in the Marine Corps during the last war, and was recalled to service during the Korean War. After 1952, he lived mainly in Europe, before settling in a rural part of Connecticut. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Although Styron is obviously influenced by such dubious writers as Thomas Wolfe and Faulkner, he nonetheless avoids the delusional granduer of the former and the pervasive annoyingness of the latter. Yet he does have a noticeably Southern style that is breezy and calming; he writes with seemingly no effort.

Being the southern gentleman that he is, I was surprised and impressed by the skill with which Styron wrote of male lust; it preoccupied the narrator to a frenzied yet comic extent and any writer who can write of male lust well will get a tip of the hat from me.

I've been reading a lot of contemporary fiction lately and Styron has a refreshing moral seriousness (and not at the expence of intelligence or art) that many writers now do not attempt. The antithesis of this type of writing would be someone like John Barth, who in his own plodding adademic way seems to think that he himself is very clever and funny. Styron seems to have the weight of the world on his poor shoulders, and in this respect, and in the clarity of his descriptions, he reminds me of Tolstoy.

However I am wary of writers who often take on humungous subjects which they have no intimate, personal experience with. And this is the main thing that bothered me about Sophie's Choice. I of course understand that writers must tackle things they have no experience of (unless they are alarmingly solipsistic and self-absorbed, like Updike) but when a writer living in the comforts of America goes on and on about Auschwitz for some reason it really bothers me. Some things should not be spoken. Also the catalog of cruelty often came off the same way that sensationalistic journalism comes off; it almost makes light of the cruelty by attempting to understand it.

Must also recommend any book by Elmore Leonard or Thomas Wolfe
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Format: Paperback
One of my favorite novels, one, as the years go by, to which I inevitably return, lifting the volume (a hardcover first edition) idly from my shelf and leafing through its pages, is Sophie's Choice, by William Styron. I don't think it would be too egregious an exaggeration to say that the book changed my life - certainly it altered the way I look at writing and literature.
Sophie's Choice was my first awakening to the concept of style. The long, windswept passage, for which I may have developed an unhealthy predeliction; the vigorous attention to the right word - there is even a passage in the novel describing Stingo's, that is, the narrator's, almost masturbatory pleasure in words, pacing madly about his extravagantly pink apartment and chanting words aloud, struggling over whether to use "undoubtedly" or "indubitably"; the use of an innocent, fish-out-of-water, first-person narrator, viewing an exotic milieu completely afresh ("a place as strange as Brooklyn," says Stingo), who, by entering into another character's confidence, permits the author an omniscience he might not otherwise believably have been able to enjoy.
It is a long book, but I finished it quickly, reading it, largely on the strength of my father's not-ignorant recommendation as one of the two best books he'd read in the last ten years, whenever I could: at school, at home, walking, in the car, on the toilet, anywhere. There were parts I found a little tedious, a fact indicative, probably, of the mentality that results my generation's constant inundation with (admittedly very important) WWII information and literature and movies and etc.
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By A Customer on Feb. 27 2003
Format: Hardcover
It's not surprising that Sophie's Choice is considered by many to be one of the great novels of the twentieth century. Styron imbues his characters and story with a life of their own. Like many great books (such as Nabokov's masterpiece, Lolita), Sophie's Choice combines elements of Comedy, Drama, Tragedy, and Horror into a compelling whole which draws the reader in. The three main characters are beautifully fleshed out, as are many of the minor characters. Much has been said about the major characters by other reviewers, I'll mention two minor ones. I found the whole Leslie Lapidus episode to be hilarious. She is a perfectly believable character, and Stingo's experiences with her added some levity to what is often a very somber story. The other minor character I found interesting (for different reasons) was Rudolf Hoss, the Commandant of Auschwitz-Birkenau. His character was disturbing precisely because he was such an ordinary man. In a different time and place, he would have been a petty government bureaucrat, perhaps working for the IRS. He studies septic system diagrams for the camp, and gets migraines worrying about production delays in building the new crematorium at Birkenau. In one scene, he sits with Sophie (his secretary) in his attic office at Auschwitz, gazing out the window at his Arabian stallion in its paddock, and marveling at its beauty. From the other side of the house, Sophie hears the constant rumble of the boxcars shunting off the main line with their human cargo. The juxtaposition of the two is quite creepy, and illustrates the complete moral disconnect of the man. What he does for a living would be much easier to explain if he were some kind of sadistic psychopath, but he doesn't even seem particularly anti-semitic. It is his ordinariness which is so disturbing, and it is Styron's power as a writer which brings such characters to life.
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