TENNESSEE WILLIAMS: Memoirs by Tennessee Williams


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Triste, triste, triste--from the beginning when Williams begins with a tired old joke like a ""destitute man's Bob Hopeless"" to the last twenty years of critical neglect, the rust of time, the depressions, and the increased dependence on liquor and drugs--even visits to that horror, Dr. Feel Good. In between, however, these loosely told memoirs (""Somehow I cannot adhere as I should to chronology"") contain a great deal of literary/theatrical small talk, edifying, unedifying, entertaining and mostly concerned with the productions of his plays. He feels the plays themselves speak for him best--they are him, as well as Miss Rose, his much loved, lobotomized sister seen at the end here with him. Psychogenic illness overtook Williams early on--he found himself in the middle of a phobic experience in which he was trying to outpace the process of thought; all his life was a ""continual contest with madness."" But with no homophilic excesses he writes of his various loves including a first girl, aged nine to his eleven years; also a first great male love Kip whom he lost to Elaine Dundy Tynan's sister and a brain tumor; and Frankie, his lover for fourteen years, until he died of cancer. But there are lighter moments-full of the kind of incidentals which make good copy, about Bankhead and Hemingway and Carson McCullers and Laurette Taylor and Capote. Still it was writing which was his life--writing a ""pursuit of a very evasive quarry and you never quite catch it."" Sometimes you lose it and then it's all downhill. Williams is not writing at his best here but sufficiently well to keep you interested, no matter how he wanders. But then as Kenneth Tynan said twenty years ago in one of those astute profiles, Williams is ""a playwright with a nose for incompleteness."" Also, ""Spirit and flesh. Choose between them: they are incompatible."" And they have left their divisive imprimatur on the man, the works.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 1975
Publisher: Doubleday