About 800 pages, containing nearly all the published and unpublished short stories by Tennessee Williams, which gain enormously from being read en bloc. Quite likely this volume will bring Williams a startling new reputation--rivaling his stature as a playwright--as a great American short-story writer. Readers who once dismissed his fiction as overwritten, precious, bizarre lispings out of Kraft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis may well have to revise their sneers. The best--and there's a lot of it--is solid work, worthy of our finest short-story writers. As Gore Vidal points out in his attractively Vidalesque introduction, the stories fall into four groups. ""First, those written up to 1941 when, at 30, he became a professionally produced if unsuccessful playwright with Battle of Angels. The second period was from 1941 to 1945, when he became a hugely successful professional playwright. . . Third, the great period, 1945 to 1952, when all the ideas for the plays were either in his head as stories--or on the stage itself. Fourth, the rest of his life when he wrote few stories. . ."" His first story, published in Weird Tales at 17, is an alluringly polished Egyptian Gothic, but he moves quickly into mature storytelling. Among a marvelously written dozen standouts are ""The Overstuffed Chair,"" a moving family portrait and the only story printed out of chronological order; ""Two on a Party,"" about a female lush and a fairy who travel together and sleep together, with sometimes a stranger between them; ""ONe Arm,"" about a young, one-armed Apollo-Christ-hustler on death row; ""Desire and the Black Masseur,"" which deserves to be discovered afresh; ""The Kingdom of Earth,"" a perfectly voiced cornpone, lust-crazed myth; and ""Completed,"" written at 71, about a 20-year-old nearly mute debutante who has not had her first period but is having a coming-out party anyway. All told, a fat collection of misfits, grotesques, castoffs and riff-raff, all of them revealed by a genius of the damned.