Page 1. " Call me Stingo "

A reference to the famous opening line of the 1851 American literary classic Moby Dick by Herman Melville, which begins 'Call me Ishmael.'

Page 2. " I was glad to be shut of my job -- my first and only salaried position, excluding the military, of my life -- even though its loss seriously undermined my already modest solvency. "

This statement and the description that follows appear to be an autobiographical presentation of the time Styron spent working for the McGraw-Hill publishing company in 1947.

The similarity between Stingo and the author is demonstrated by the manner in which Stingo is sacked from the company. The balloon incident in Sophie's Choice is only slightly less dramatic a means of termination than the water balloons Styron actually dropped from his office – the result was unquestionably the same.

Page 4. " as savagely demanding as Matthew Arnold "

 Matthew Arnold was a nineteenth century English poet and critic. He was influential in the field of literary criticism, which had not previously been considered a serious scholarly pursuit. He stressed the importance of literature in culture, arguing that it could almost take the place of religion in people's lives. For Arnold, quality in literary works was therefore of upmost importance.

His poem "Dover Beach" plays a pivotal role in Ian McEwan's novel, Saturday.

Saturday on Book Drum

 

 

Page 10. " that great classic of modern adventure, Kon-Tiki "

A book by the Norwegian writer Thor Heyerdahl, based on his experiences crossing the Pacific on a raft of that name in 1947.  He set out to prove that it was possible people from South America had settled Polynesia.

 

   

Page 12. " The best meal for less than a dollar in the city was a couple of hamburgers and a slice of pie at a White Tower. "
The White Tower
Creative Commons AttributionThe White Tower - Credit: Improbcat

White Tower Hamburgers was a restaurant chain that opened in 1926 in Wisconsin, eventually spreading to the larger cities of the American East. It was one of the earlier fast food chains in the country. 

Extending the 'white' theme to convey an impression of hygiene, the chain even went so far as to have its waitresses dress as nurses. Following a lengthy lawsuit brought by a competitor, White Castle, the chain changed its theme, adopting a more art-deco appearance. 

Page 20. " Sensationalism is preferable to radicalism "

There are more newspapers printed in the city of New York than in many countries. These newspapers come in a broad range of formats, covering everything from serious political issues to tabloid sensationalism. 

Following the end of World War II and the rise of Communist regimes throughout Europe and Asia, the type of newspaper you chose to read said a great deal about the type of person you were.  Some were considered much more politically correct than others, at a time when the Red Scare was on the rise and the Cold War was becoming the next major concern of the American political arena. Loyalties could be brought into question by the type of newspaper you chose to read, and this could even provoke an investigation during the McCarthy era. Often corporations and big businesses would consider it inappropriate for employees to be found reading politically questionable material.