STYRON, William (b.1925). Set this House on Fire. New York: Random House, 1960.
8o. Original cloth (upper hinge starting); dust jacket (minor darkening to spine). Provenance: JAMES JONES (1921-1977), American writer (presentation inscription).
FIRST EDITION. PRESENTATION COPY, INSCRIBED BY WILLIAM STYRON TO HIS CLOSE FRIEND JAMES JONES: "To my dear good friend Jim Jones without whose looming presence on the scene this book might have been written more quickly and with less sweat. With love and kisses W. Styron Paris August 1960."
The first three works of William Styron span the first post-war decade, and develop alongside the efforts of his close friends and peers Norman Mailer and James Jones -- though, unlike his collegues, Styron never wrote a World War II novel as such.
That this copy was inscribed in Paris in 1960 was no coincidence. Paris was the nexus of the Jones-Styron intimacy, which blossomed throughout the 1960s: "... It is in Paris, nearly always Paris, where I locate Jim when I conjure him up in my memory. Year in and year out -- sometimes with my wife, Rose, sometimes alone -- I came to roost in the Joneses' marvelous lodgings overlooking the Seine, often freeloading... so long that I acquired the status of a semi-permanent guest. My clearest and most splendid image is that of the huge living room... Into this room with its flood of pastel Parisian light, with its sound of Dave Brubeck or Brahms, there would come during the sixties and early seventies a throng of admirable and infamous characters, ordinary and glamorous and weird people -- writers and painters and movie stars, starving Algerian poets, drug addicts, Ivy League scholars, junketing United States senators, thieves, jockeys, restaurateurs, big names from the American media (fidgety and morose in their sudden vacuum of anonymity), tycoons and paupers... No domicile ever attracted such a steady stream of visitors, no hosts ever extended uncomplainingly so much largess to the deserving and worthless alike..." (William Styron, Prologue to Hendrick's To Reach Eternity: The Letters of James Jones New York, 1989, page XIII).