Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams

Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams

by Lyle Leverich
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

“An intimate portrait of a brilliant and beleaguered artist. The most detailed, thorough and compassionate account yet of the playwright’s formative years.” —San Francisco Chronicle “A remarkable account of a young man’s fascinating journey to greatness. A grand vision of a complex creature. An engrossing and compulsive read.

Overview

“An intimate portrait of a brilliant and beleaguered artist. The most detailed, thorough and compassionate account yet of the playwright’s formative years.” —San Francisco Chronicle “A remarkable account of a young man’s fascinating journey to greatness. A grand vision of a complex creature. An engrossing and compulsive read. Future work must be measured against Leverich for decades to come.” —Theater Week
The riveting, revelatory, and sole authorized account of the critical first decades of Tennessee Williams's life. Tennessee Williams, author of such indelible masterpieces as The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire, is considered by many to be the greatest literary artist of the American theater. Tom is Lyle Leverich's definitive account based on his exclusive access to letters, diaries, unpublished manuscripts, and family documents of Williams's early life and of the events that shaped this most autobiographical of dramatists. It tells the story of the marital traumas of his bullying father and overly protective mother, the mental disorders that institutionalized his beloved sister Rose, his stalled academic career, and his confused sexuality and early successes as a writer; and it leaves Thomas Lanier Williams on the brink of fame with The Glass Menagerie and his transformation into the celebrated persona of "Tennessee."

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
After a protracted squabble over private papers with the playwright's estate, Leverich delivers this hefty but only slightly bloated first volume of a projected two-volume life of Tennessee Williams (1911-1983). In it, Leverich-who produced several of Williams's plays and calls himself Williams's ``chosen biographer''-covers the years through 1945, when The Glass Menagerie opened on Broadway. Treated are Williams's youth in Mississippi and St. Louis; the college years at the universities of Missouri and Iowa; bumming around (but always writing) in New Orleans and Greenwich Village; the disaster of his first Broadway play (it closed in Boston); script writing-or avoiding it-at MGM's Hollywood mill; and, finally, the evolution of Menagerie, a wonderfully detailed and dramatic case history in itself. Leverich's overworked conceit, which he restates at intervals, is that this is the life of Tom Williams, a ``repressed puritan'' poet, who in time created a more flamboyant public persona called Tennessee. A few matters are set straight. Leverich maintains his subject's active homosexual life started in his late 20s, later than Williams stated in his memoirs, and that his sister's infamous lobotomy came later than his mother claimed. Although the accumulation of information is impressive, the lower Leverich keeps his own profile and editorial commentary the better his book is, which means it is at its best when it simply reproduces Williams's sporadically kept journal. If you believe that all the details of a life are but preparation for a single event-in this case, the opening of a remarkable play-this is an impressively argued biography. Even if you don't, it is a compulsively readable story. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Theatrical producer Leverich was personally selected by Williams to write his biography (this is the first of two books; the second will focus on Williams once he became famous). It is clear that Leverich understands Williams as poet, dramatist, and human being-and the impact of each on the other. Concerning his outrageous behavior, Williams once wrote that "when I now appear in public the children are called indoors and the dogs are pushed out!" What lasted longest in Williams's life was his passion for writing-even when what he wrote was no longer successful. Williams battled his "blue devils"-his fear of madness; addictive, promiscuous homosexual behavior; and alcoholism-for most of his adult life. His mother, father, and sister contributed greatly to the creation of characters in his plays. Williams became a wayfarer, constantly seeking comfort in distant places with strangers, haunted by the nightingale (his own word for sexual intrigue). If Williams were here to read this book, he would undoubtedly use one of his favorite phrases, En avant! ("Forward march!"). Highly recommended.-Robert L. Kelly, Fort Wayne Community Schs., Ind.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393316636
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
04/28/1997
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
676
Sales rank:
1,084,079
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.49(d)

Meet the Author

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >