Too little has been written about the Nat Turner slave rebellion. William Styron made a great start at correcting this situation, but the fact is the rebellion itself defies so many comfortable stereotypes nobody who loves to blandly assert and conjecture concerning black slaves is likely to love the work. But it's a good read and worthy of more praise than it ever had.
"A Negro's most cherished possession is the drab, neutral cloak of anonymity he can manage to gather around himself, allowing him to merge faceless and nameless with the common swarm. . ."
While "The Confessions of Nat Turner" won the Pulitzer Prize and received plenty of accolades, there were some who objected to its very premise: how could a privileged white author possibly capture the voice of a 19th century slave? The controversy, coming at the height of racial tensions in the late 60s, was enough to spawn a whole cottage industry of criticism, including a book of essays. While there is some legitimacy to the criticism, esp. considering the long history of white culture appropriating African-American culture, if authors only wrote about their own class/race/gender/religion/etc., literature would be the poorer for it. The book is good, if somewhat dated, and it would have benefited from being about 100 pages shorter. I recently read James McBride's novel "The Great Lord Bird," about John Brown, which is a more successful example of historical fiction. This edition contains an afterword by Styron, which explains and defends his motivations and methods. His other major novel is "Sophie's Choice."
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