Books: Empty Soul Blues

SET THIS HOUSE ON FIRE (507 pp.]—William Sfyron—Random House ($5.95).

This novel is a soy-pp. crying jag. The tears are shed for life as a lost cause. Such a melancholy viewpoint seems to come naturally to the Southern school of U.S. writers of which Virginia's William Styron is an unevenly talented member. Characteristically, most Southern writers equate the post-bellum fate of their region with the universal fate of man, and identify decline with tragedy. Amid romanticized passivity, violence erupts in Gothic melodramas of rape, murder and madness. Among the few exceptions: some of William...

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