Saturday, October 18, 2014
TENNESSEE WILLIAMS by JOHN LAHR
Tennessee Williams once said, “I have lived intimately with the outcast and derelict and the desperate. I have tried to make a record of their lives because my own has fitted me to do so.” Reading this authoritative biography of one of our most brilliant playwrights one realizes the truth of these words. We see his painful childhood created by a mean, tyrannical father, a puritanical mother who sought acquiescence from all, and a mentally ill sister in his stories, poems and plays - The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.
Many words have been written about Williams but surely none as kind or as perceptive as those of John Lahr. The author of 17 books and the New Yorker’s senior drama critic for 20 years Lahr offers not only intimate details of the playwright’s life but access to his mind as found in diaries, letters, memoirs, interviews, theater history and unpublished manuscripts. It is not easy reading as we learn of the fear, self-doubt and paranoia that tormented Williams, eventually driving him to addictions to alcohol and narcotics.
Missives from Williams’s long-time agent, Audrey Wood are especially riveting as are descriptions of his collaboration with film director Elia Kazan. Quite simply this is a stellar biography shedding new light on the life and work of a great playwright.
- Gail Cooke