What better way to pay tribute to a writer than to say you have imitated him? I'm not talking about plagiarizing an author's words, but moving from an author's words to one's own, yet in the spirit of the author. In a 1975 tribute piece appearing in This Quiet Dust and Other Writings, William Styron explains such a reaction after reading All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren, in his basement apartment on Lexington Avenue, New York City, during a winter blizzard:
I began my first novel before that snow had melted; it is a book called Lie Down in Darkness, and in tone and style, as any fool can see, it is profoundly indebted to the work which so ravished my heart and mind during that long snowfall.Styron uses at least three interesting devices in this 48-word sentence:
- A semicolon not for balance but for speed. The left side of the semicolon includes 10 words while the right side includes 38, an imbalance that defies standard use. Styron uses it not for symmetry but to move on the reader quicker than would a period.
- An apparently unnecessary reference to a famous book. Styron mentions his book Lie Down in Darkness neither for self-promotion nor for an uninformed audience—only an informed audience would read this essay—but to humble the book's stature in contrast with All the King's Men.
- A colloquial reference that breaks the formality of style. Styron writes "as any fool can see not" to embarrass those who did not pick up the similarities in tone and style between his Lie Down in Darkness and Warren's All the King's Men, but to fully disclose that he makes no pretenses to originality in these rhetorical features and to pay homage to a literary mentor.
- Part 1: James Baldwin on Artists
- Part 2: Stanley Karnow on the Vietnam Memorial
- Part 3: Steven Pinker on Human Progress
- Part 4: Martin Luther King Jr. on Injustice
- Part 5: Andrew Sullivan on Religious Fundamentalism
- Part 6: Carl Sagan on the Environment
- Part 7: Harold Bloom on Shakespeare
- Part 8: Richard Bradley on Openers
- Part 9: T. S. Eliot on Dante
- Part 10: Edward Albee on Carson McCullers
- Part 11: John Donne on Immortality