Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh

Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh

by John Lahr

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Overview

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography and Finalist for the National Book Award.


The definitive biography of America's greatest playwright from the celebrated drama critic of The New Yorker.

John Lahr has produced a theater biography like no other. Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh gives intimate access to the mind of one of the most brilliant dramatists of his century, whose plays reshaped the American theater and the nation's sense of itself. This astute, deeply researched biography sheds a light on Tennessee Williams's warring family, his guilt, his creative triumphs and failures, his sexuality and numerous affairs, his misreported death, even the shenanigans surrounding his estate.

With vivid cameos of the formative influences in Williams's life—his fierce, belittling father Cornelius; his puritanical, domineering mother Edwina; his demented sister Rose, who was lobotomized at the age of thirty-three; his beloved grandfather, the Reverend Walter Dakin—Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh is as much a biography of the man who created A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as it is a trenchant exploration of Williams’s plays and the tortured process of bringing them to stage and screen.

The portrait of Williams himself is unforgettable: a virgin until he was twenty-six, he had serial homosexual affairs thereafter as well as long-time, bruising relationships with Pancho Gonzalez and Frank Merlo. With compassion and verve, Lahr explores how Williams's relationships informed his work and how the resulting success brought turmoil to his personal life.

Lahr captures not just Williams's tempestuous public persona but also his backstage life, where his agent Audrey Wood and the director Elia Kazan play major roles, and Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani, Bette Davis, Maureen Stapleton, Diana Barrymore, and Tallulah Bankhead have scintillating walk-on parts. This is a biography of the highest order: a book about the major American playwright of his time written by the major American drama critic of his time.

Winner of the 2015 Sheridan Morley Prize for Theatre Biography

American Academy of Arts and Letters' Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award
Chicago Tribune Best Books of 2014
USA Today 10 Books We Loved Reading
Washington Post 10 Best Books of 2014

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393021240
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 09/22/2014
Pages: 784
Sales rank: 1,234,865
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 2.10(d)

About the Author

National Book Award finalist John Lahr is the author of Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, among other books. He was the senior drama critic of The New Yorker for over two decades. He has twice won the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism and is the first critic ever to win a Tony Award (coauthor, Elaine Stritch at Liberty).

Table of Contents

Preface xiii

1 Blood-Hot and Personal 1

2 The Heart Can't Wait 68

3 The Erotics of Absence 151

4 Fugitive Mind 215

5 Thunder of Disintegration 279

6 Beanstalk Country 346

7 Kookhood 397

8 Waving and Drowning 456

9 The Long Farewell 509

10 The Sudden Subway 583

Acknowledgments 603

Chronology 605

Notes 617

Sources 725

Credits 731

Index 741

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