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Tennessee Williams

America’s playwright

Arguably America’s greatest playwright, Tennessee Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams in Mississippi on March 26, 1911. The son of a salesman and a Southern belle, Williams spent his much of his early childhood in the parsonage of his beloved grandfather, an Episcopal priest, but moved with his family to St. Louis, where he attended high school and began to write. Forced by his father to leave the University of Missouri and take a 9-to-5 job in a shoe factory, Williams became more and more determined to be a successful writer. He took classes at Washington University in St. Louis, and wrote his first plays. In 1938 he earned a degree fro the Univeristy of Iowa, where he wrote Spring Storm. Of the theater he remarked: “know it’s the only thing that saved my life.” By 1939, he had adopted the name of Tennessee Williams, written Battle of Angels (for which he received a Rockefeller Foundation grant) and found his loyal and intrepid agent Audrey Wood. His first great success came in 1944 with his “memory play,” The Glass Menagerie, which opened in Chicago to rave reviews and moved to Broadway, where it won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best play of the year. A Streetcar Named Desire, his next play, was a huge success in 1947 and established Williams as the premiere American playwright of his generation. Between 1948 and 1959, he enjoyed a string of Broadway successes, including Summer and Smoke (1948), The Rose Tattoo (1951), Camino Real (1953), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Orpheus Descending (1957) and Sweet Bird of Youth (1959). By 1959 he had won two Pulitzer Prizes, three New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, and a Tony Award. Movies were made of many of his plays and brought him huge success, renown and wealth. He continued to write voraciously, every day, producing novels, stories, and many new, radical and inventive plays, which did not always meet with the public’s approval, but which are now being revived and re-staged to great acclaim. As well as being astonishingly talented and prolific, Tennessee Williams was a man of considerable personal courage, willing to be open about being a gay man at a time when few were. Tennessee Williams is a cornerstone of New Directions, as we publish everything he wrote in his storied career. He is also our single bestselling author.


cover image for The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone

Fiction

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone is vintage Tennessee Williams. Published in 1950, his first novel was acclaimed by Gore Vidal as "splendidly written, precise, short, complete, and fine." It is the story of a wealthy, fiftyish American widow recently a famous stage beauty, but now "drifting." The novel opens soon after her husband’s death and her retirement from the theatre, as Mrs. Stone tries to adjust to her aimless new life in Rome. She is adjusting, too, to aging. ("The knowledge that her beauty was lost had come upon her recently and it was still occasionally forgotten.") With poignant wit and his own particular brand of relish, Williams charts her drift into an affair with a cruel young gigolo: "As compelling, as fascinating, and as technically skillful as his play" (Publishers Weekly).



cover image for Orpheus Descending & Suddenly Last Summer

Orpheus Descending & Suddenly Last Summer

Theater

Orpheus Descending is a love story and a plea for spiritual and artistic freedom, as well as a portrait of racism and intolerance. When a charismatic drifter, Valentine Xavier, arrives in a Mississippi Delta town with his guitar and snakeskin jacket, he becomes a trigger for hatred and a magnet for three outcast souls: shopkeeper Lady Torrance, "lewd vagrant" Carol Cutrere, and religious visionary Vee Talbot.

Suddenly Last Summerdescribed by its author as a "short morality play"—has become one of his most notorious works, due in no small part to the film version starring Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, and Montgomery Clift that shocked audiences in 1959. A menacing tale of madness, jealously, and denial, Suddenly Last Summer’’s build to a heart-stopping conclusion.

Perceptive new introductions by the playwright Martin Sherman reframe Orpheus Descending in a political context and explore the psychology and sensationalism surrounding Suddenly Last Summer.



cover image for The Glass Menagerie (Centennial Edition)

The Glass Menagerie (Centennial Edition)

Theater

The Glass Menagerie marked a crucial turning point in American theater, and forever changed the life of its then unknown author. Williams’s elegiac masterpiece brought a radical new lyricism to Broadway — the tragedy, fragility, and tenderness of this “memory play” have made it one of America’s most powerful, timeless, and compelling plays. The introduction by Tony Kushner sparkles with the kind of rich, unique insight that only a fellow playwright could convery.

The “Deluxe Centennial Edition” includes:

• Tony Kushner’s astonishing Introduction

• The pioneering essay, “The Homosexual in Society,” by Tennessee’s friend, Robert Duncan, and poems by Hart Crane, E. E. Cummings, Walt Whitman, and Tennessee Williams, which Kushner discusses as sources of inspiration.

• “The Pretty Trap,” a cheerful one-act run up to The Glass Menaagerie.

• “The Portrait of a Girl in Glass,” Tennessee’s short story variation of the play

• Photographs of great actresses who have played Amanda, and stills from various
stage and film incarnations of The Glass Menagerie.

• Williams’s classic essay about fame, “The Catastrophe of Success.”

• The playwright’s original “Production Notes.”

• The 1944 opening night rave reviews from Chicago.

• An essay by distinguished Williams scholar Allean Hale, “Inside The Menagerie,”
provides autobiographical particulars about Williams family life in St. Louis.

• A gorgeous new jacket design by Rodrigo Corral



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The Magic Tower And Other One-Act Plays

Theater

Here are portraits of American life during the Great Depression and after, populated by a hopelessly hopeful chorus girl, a munitions manufacturer ensnared in a love triangle, a rural family that deals "justice" on its children, an overconfident mob dandy, a poor couple who quarrel to vanquish despair, a young "spinster" enthralled by the impulse of rebellion, and, in "The Magic Tower," a passionate artist and his wife whose youth and optimism are not enough to protect their "dream marriage." This new volume gathers some of Williams’s most exuberant early work and includes one-acts that he would later expand to powerful full-length dramas: "The Pretty Trap," a cheerful take on The Glass Menagerie, and "Interior: Panic," a stunning precursor to A Streetcar Named Desire.



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Tales of Desire

Fiction

“I cannot write any sort of story,” said Tennessee Williams to Gore Vidal, “unless there is at least one character in it for whom I have physical desire.” The five transgressive Tales of Desire—“The Mysteries of the Joy Rio,” “One Arm,” “Desire and the Black Masseur,” “Hard Candy,” and “The Killer Chicken and the Closet Queen”—show the iconic playwright at his outrageous best. One of the world’s greatest playwrights (The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire) Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) was also a master of the short story with “a narrative tone of voice that is totally compelling” (Gore Vidal).



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The Night of the Iguana

Theater

Tennessee Williams wrote: "This is a play about love in its purest terms." It is also Williams’s robust and persuasive plea for endurance and resistance in the face of human suffering. The earthy widow Maxine Faulk is proprietress of a rundown hotel at the edge of a Mexican cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean where the defrocked Rev. Shannon, his tour group of ladies from a West Texas women’s college, the self-described New England spinster Hannah Jelkes and her ninety-seven-year-old grandfather ("the world’s oldest living and practicing poet"), a family of grotesque Nazi vacationers, and an iguana tied by its throat to the veranda, all find themselves assembled for a rainy and turbulent night. This is the first trade paperback edition of The Night of the Iguana and comes with an Introduction by playwright Doug Wright, the author’s original Foreword, the short story "The Night of the Iguana" which was the germ for the play, plus an essay by noted Tennessee Williams scholar Kenneth Holditch.



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Where I Live

Nonfiction

For most of his Broadway plays Tennessee Williams composed an essay, most often for The New York Times, to be published just prior to opening—something to whet the theatergoers’ appetites and to get the critics thinking. Many of these were collected in the 1978 volume Where I Live, which is now expanded by noted Williams scholar John S. Bak to include all of Williams’ theater essays, biographical pieces, introductions and reviews. This volume also includes a few occasional pieces, program notes, and a discreet selection of juvenilia such as his 1927 essay published in Smart Set, which answers the question “Can a good wife be a good sport?” Wonderful and candid stories abound in these essays—from erudite observations on the theater to veneration for great actresses. In “Five Fiery Ladies” Williams describes his fascinated, deep appreciation of Vivien Leigh, Geraldine Page, Anna Magnani, Katharine Hepburn, and Elizabeth Taylor, all of whom created roles in stage or film versions of his plays. There are two tributes to his great friend Carson McCullers; reviews of Cocteau’s film Orpheus and of two novels by Paul Bowles; a portrait of Williams’ longtime agent Audrey Wood; a salute to Tallulah Bankhead; a political statement from 1972, “We Are Dissenters Now”; some hilarious stories in response to Elia Kazan’s frequent admonition, “Tennessee, Never Talk to An Actress”; and Williams’ most moving and astute autobiographical essay, “The Man in the Overstuffed Chair.” Theater critic and essayist John Lahr has provided a terrific foreword which sheds further light on Tennessee Williams’ writing process, always fueled by Williams’ self-deprecating humor and his empathy for life’s nonconformists.



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Sweet Bird Of Youth

Theater

Tennessee Williams knew how to tell a good tale, and this steamy, wrenching play about a faded movie star, Alexandra Del Lago, and about the lost innocence and corruption of Chance Wayne, reveals the dark side of the American dreams of youth and fame. Distinguished American playwright Lanford Wilson has written an insightful Introduction for this edition. Also included are Williams’ original Foreword to the play; the one-act play "The Enemy: Time"—the germ for the full-length version, published here for the first time; an essay by Tennessee Williams scholar, Colby H. Kullman; and a chronology of the author’s life.



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Camino Real

Theater

In this phantasmagorical play, the Camino Real is a dead end, a police state in a vaguely Latin American country, and an inescapable condition. Characters from history and literature—Don Quixote, Casanova, Camille, Lord Byron—inhabit a place where corruption and indifference have immobilized and nearly destroyed the human spirit. Then, into this netherworld, the archetypal Kilroy arrives—a sailor and all-American guy with “a heart as big as the head of baby.” Celebrated American playwright John Guare has written an illuminative Introduction for this edition. Also included are Williams’ original Foreword and Afterword to the play, the one-act play "Ten Blocks on the Camino Real," plus an essay by noted Tennessee Williams scholar Michael Paller.



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A House Not Meant To Stand

Theater

Christmas 1982: Cornelius and Bella McCorkle of Pascagoula, Mississippi, return home one midnight in a thunderstorm from the Memphis funeral of their older son to a house and a life literally falling apart—daughter Joanie is in an insane asylum and their younger son Charlie is upstairs having sex with his pregnant, holy-roller girlfriend as the McCorkles enter. Cornelius, who has political ambitions and a litany of health problems, is trying to find a large amount of moonshine money his gentle wife Bella has hidden somewhere in their collapsing house, but his noisy efforts are disrupted by a stream of remarkable characters, both living and dead. While Williams often used drama to convey hope and desperation in human hearts, it was through this dark, expressionistic comedy, which he called a "Southern gothic spook sonata," that he was best able to chronicle his vision of the fragile state of our world.



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The Traveling Companion & Other Plays

Theater

Even with his great commercial success, Tennessee Williams always considered himself an experimental playwright. In the last 25 years of his life his explorations increased—especially in shorter forms and one-act plays—as Williams created performance pieces with elements of theater of the absurd, theater of cruelty, theater of the ridiculous, as well as motifs from Japanese forms such as Noh and Kabuki, high camp and satire, and with innovative visual and verbal styles that were entirely his own. Influenced by Beckett, Genet, and Pinter, among others, Williams worked hard to expand the boundaries of the lyric realism he was best known for. These plays were explicitly intended to be performed off-off Broadway or regionally. Sometimes disturbing, sometimes outrageous, quite often the tone of these plays is rough, bawdy or even cartoonish. While a number of these plays employ what could be termed bizarre "happy endings," others gaze unblinkingly into the darkness. Though several of Williams’ lesser-known works from this period have already been published by New Directions, these twelve plays have never been collected. Most of these shorter plays are unknown to audiences and scholars—some are published here for the first time—yet all of them embrace, in one way or another, what Time magazine called "the four major concerns that have spurred Williams’ dramatic imagination: loneliness, love, the violated heart and the valiancy of survival."



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Memoirs

Nonfiction

When Memoirs was first published in 1975, it created quite a bit of turbulence in the media—though long self-identified as a gay man, Williams’ candor about his love life, sexual encounters, and drug use was found shocking in and of itself, and such revelations by America’s greatest living playwright were called "a raw display of private life" by The New York Times Book Review. As it turns out, thirty years later, Williams’ look back at his life is not quite so scandalous as it once seemed; he recalls his childhood in Mississippi and St. Louis, his prolonged struggle as a "starving artist," the "overnight" success of The Glass Menagerie in 1945, the death of his long-time companion Frank Merlo in 1962, and his confinement to a psychiatric ward in 1969 and subsequent recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, all with the same directness, compassion, and insight that epitomize his plays. And, of course, Memoirs is filled with Williams’ amazing friends from the worlds of stage, screen, and literature as he—often hilariously, sometimes fondly, sometimes not—remembers them: Laurette Taylor, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, Elia Kazan, Marlon Brando, Vivian Leigh, Carson McCullers, Anna Magnani, Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor, and Tallulah Bankhead to name a few. And now film director John Waters, well acquainted with shocking the American public, has written an introduction that gives some perspective on the various reactions to Tennessee’s Memoirs, while also paying tribute to a fellow artist who inspired many with his integrity and endurance.



cover image for The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams Vol. II: 1946-1957

The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams Vol. II: 1946-1957

Nonfiction

Volume I of The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams ends with the unexpected triumph of The Glass Menagerie. Volume II extends the correspondence from 1946 to 1957, a time of intense creativity which saw the production of A Streetcar Named Desire, The Rose Tattoo, Camino Real, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Following the immense success of Streetcar, Williams struggles to retain his prominence with a prodigious outpouring of stories, poetry, and novels as well as plays. Several major film projects, including the notorious Baby Doll, bring Williams and his collaborator Elia Kazan into conflict with powerful agencies of censorship, exposing both the conservative landscape of the 1950s and Williams’ own studied resistance to the forces of conformity. Letters written to Kazan, Carson McCullers, Gore Vidal, publisher James Laughlin, and Audrey Wood, Williams’ resourceful agent, continue earlier lines of correspondence and introduce new celebrity figures. The Broadway and Hollywood successes in the evolving career of America’s premier dramatist vie with a string of personal losses and a deepening depression to make this period an emotional and artistic rollercoaster for Tennessee. Compiled by leading Williams scholars Albert J. Devlin, Professor of English at the University of Missouri, and Nancy M. Tischler, Professor Emerita of English at the Pennsylvania State University, Volume II maintains the exacting standard of Volume I, called by Choice: "a volume that will prove indispensable to all serious students of this author...meticulous annotations greatly increase the value of this gathering."



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The Collected Poems Of Tennessee Williams

Poetry

Few writers achieve success in more than one genre, and yet if Tennessee Williams had never written a single play he would still be known as a distinguished poet. The excitement, compassion, lyricism, and humor that epitomize his writing for the theater are all present in his poetry. It was as a young poet that Williams first came to the attention of New Directions’ founder James Laughlin, who initially presented some of Williams’ verse in the New Directions anthology Five Young American Poets 1944 (before he had any reputation as a playwright), and later published the individual volumes of Williams’s poetry, In the Winter of Cities (1956, revised in 1964) and Androgyne, Mon Amour (1977). In this definitive edition, all of the playwright’s collected and uncollected published poems (along with substantial variants), including poems from the plays, have been assembled, accompanied by explanatory notes and an introduction by Tennessee Williams scholars David Roessel and Nicholas Moschovakis. The CD included with this paperbook edition features Tennessee Williams reading, in his delightful and mesmerizing Mississippi voice, several of the whimsical folk poems he called his "Blue Mountain Ballads," poems dedicated to Carson McCullers and to his longtime companion Frank Merlo, as well as his long early poem, "The Summer Belvedere."



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Mister Paradise & Other One Act Plays

Theater

This collection of previously unpublished one-acts includes some of Tennessee Williams’s most poignant and hilarious characters: the tough and outrageous drag queens of And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens...; the betrayed wife who refuses to take a lover in The Fat Man’s Wife; and the extravagant mistress who cheats on her married man in The Pink Bedroom.

Most of these plays were written in the 1930s and early 1940s, when Williams was already flexing his formindable theatrical imaginations: lovers scramble for quick assignations in the closed movie theater balcony of These Are the Stairs You’ve Got to Watch; Chekovian-style family ennui in Summer at the Lake leads to heartbreak; and in Thank You, Kind Spirit a mulatto spiritualist from New Orleans’ French Quarter is visciously exposed as a fraud – or is she?

Acclaimed stage and film actors Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson have conitrbuted a delightful foreword based on their memories of working with the playright, while an insightful introduction and notes  by editors Nicholas Moschovakis and David Rossel provide biographical and textual background.



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A Streetcar Named Desire

Theater

It is a very short list of 20th-century American plays that continue to have the same power and impact as when they first appeared—A Streetcar Named Desire is one of those plays. The story of the fading and desperate Blanche DuBois and how her sensuous and brutal brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski, pushes her over the edge is now classic. Who better than Arthur Miller, America’s elder statesman of the theater (Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, Broken Glass, Resurrection Blues), to write as a witness to the lightning that struck American culture when Williams’s singular style of poetic dialogue, violence, compassion, and dramatic sexuality was first encountered in the form of A Streetcar Named Desire? Miller’s rich perspective and lucid insights make this a unique and essential new edition. Included are Williams’s essay "The World I Live In" and a chronology of the author’s life and works.



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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Theater

The sensuality and excitement of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof first heated up Broadway in 1955 with its gothic American story of two brothers (and their wives) vying for the inheritance of their dying father, Big Daddy, amid a whirlwind of sexuality untethered (in the person of Maggie the Cat), and the burden of love repressed (in the person of her husband, Brick Pollitt). Williams, as he so often did with his plays, rewrote Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for many years—this version was prepared by Williams for the American Shakespeare Festival production in 1974, with all the changes that satisfied the playwright’s desire for a definitive text. Edward Albee, one of America’s greatest living playwrights (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Zoo Story, Three Tall Women, The Play About the Baby) as well as a friend and colleague of Williams, has written a concise and perceptive introduction from a playwright’s perspective. This edition also includes a short chronology of the author’s life and works; Williams’ essay “Author and Director: A Delicate Situation"; as well as the insightful "Swinging a Cat," in which Williams scholar Brian Parker describes the various versions, rewrites, and changes Williams made to Cat over more than twenty years.



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Candles To The Sun

Theater



cover image for The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams Vol. I: 1920-1945

The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams Vol. I: 1920-1945

Nonfiction

When first published in 2000, Volume I of The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams was hailed as "indispensable" (Choice), a "carefully researched, fully documented study" (Buffalo News), and "a model edition of a significant set of letters by one of America’s leading writers" (MLA citation for the biennial Morton N. Cohen Award). Now available as a paperbook, it is hoped that this volume will help a widening circle of readers appreciate that the great American playwright was also "a prodigy of the letter" (Allan JaIon, San Francisco Chronicle). Tennessee Williams wrote to family, friends, and fellow artists with varying measures of piety, wit, and astute self-knowledge. Presented with a running commentary to separate Williams’s sometimes hilarious, often devious, counter-reality from truth, the letters form a virtual autobiography of the great American dramatist. Volume I of The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams: 1920-1945 includes 330 letters written to nearly seventy correspondents and chosen from a group of 900 letters collected by two leading Williams scholars: Albert J. Devlin, Professor of English at the University of Missouri, and Nancy M. Tischler, Professor Emerita of English at the Pennsylvania State University.



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Fugitive Kind

Theater

Fugitive Kind, one of Tennessee Williams’s earliest plays, is one of his richest in dramatic material. Written in 1937 when the playwright was still Thomas Lanier Williams, Fugitive Kind introduces the character who will inhabit most of his later plays: the marginal man or woman who, through no personal fault, is a misfit in society but who demonstrates an admirable will to survive. Signature Tennessee Williams characters, situations and even the title (which was used as The Fugitive Kind for the 1960 film based on Orpheus Descending) have their genesis here. At age twenty-six, Williams was still learning his craft and this, his second full-length play, shows his debt to sources as diverse as thirties gangster films (The Petrified Forest, Winterset) and Gorky’s The Lower Depths. Fugitive Kind, with its star-crossed lovers and big city slum setting, takes place in a flophouse on the St. Louis waterfront in the shadow of Eads Bridge, where Williams spent Saturdays away from his shoe factory job and met his characters: jobless wayfarers on the dole, young writers and artists of the WPA, even gangsters and G-men. Fugitive Kind was also Williams’s second play to be produced by The Mummers, a St. Louis theatre group devoted to drama of social protest. Called "vital and absorbing" by a contemporary review in the St. Louis Star-Times, this play reveals the young playwright’s own struggle between his radical-socialist sympathies and his poetic inclinations, and signals his future reputation as our most compassionate lyric dramatist. Once again, noted Williams scholar Allean Hale, who has previously edited two other early Williams plays, Not About Nightingales and Stairs to the Roof, has prepared a text faithful to the original production and an introduction which illuminates both the historical and literary background of the play.


Available: June 01 2001


cover image for The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. VIII

The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. VIII

Theater

The Theatre of Tennessee Williams presents, in matching format, the plays of one of America’s most consistently influential and innovative dramatists. The first five volumes of this ongoing series contain Williams’s full-length plays through 1975 and, in addition to the texts themselves, include original cast listings and production notes. Volumes 6 and 7 contain Williams’s collected shorter plays. Now available as a paperback, Volume 8 adds to the series four full-length plays written and produced during the last decade of Williams’s life.


Available: May 01 2001


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Eight Mortal Ladies Possessed

Theater

In his earlier collections, One Arm (1948) and Hard Candy (1954), Tennessee Williams established himself as a master of short fiction, bringing to the genre the same qualities of compassion and psychological insight that he has shown as a dramatist. His unique vision and technical skill are again evident in the humane portraits of Eight Mortal Ladies Possessed. Treating of loneliness and rejection, of varying degrees of defeat or triumph, the narratives range in tone from "Oriflamme," whose heroine evokes Alma of Summer and Smoke as a touching study in feminine frailty, to the hilarious and bawdy tale of "Miss Coynte of Greene," a lady who, refusing to be trapped as a respectable old maid caring for an irascible grandmother, launches herself upon a life of sexual adventure––and thoroughly enjoys it. The reader also meets an ancient principessa ("The Inventory at Fontana Bella"), commanding her exasperated staff to often senseless duties and harboring lusty memories of her long-dead fifth husband; an out-dated poetess ("Sabbatha and Solitude" ), depressed and arthritic in her Maine aerie with her restless young Italian lover; and in a "good" Southern family ("Completed"), an hysterical young woman and her morphine-addicted aunt. In "Happy August the Tenth," the lead story, Williams sensitively depicts two women with antagonisms too deep to solve, yet held together by needs too profound to ignore. Real people all of them, each one saving in her own way: "If you can’t whisper, then it is wise to shout."


Available: January 01 2001


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Vieux Carre

Theater

Tennessee Williams’s Vieux Carré is not emotion recollected in tranquility but emotion re-created with all the pain, compassion, and wry humor of the playwright’s own 1938 sojourn in the New Orleans French Quarter vividly intact. The drama takes its form from the shifting scenes of memory, and Williams’s surrogate self invites us to focus, in turn, on the various inhabitants of his dilapidated rooming house in the Vieux Carré––the comically desperate landlady, Mrs. Wire; Jane, a properly brought up young woman from New York making a last grab at pleasure with the vulgar but appealing strip-joint barker, Tye; two decayed gentlewomen politely starving in the garret; and the dying painter Nightingale, who tries to teach the young writer something about love––both of the body and of the heart. This is a play about the education of an artist, an education in loneliness, despair, giving and not giving, but most of all in seeing, hearing, feeling, and learning that "writers are shameless spies," who pay dearly for their knowledge and who cannot forget.


Available: October 01 2000


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Stairs To The Roof

Theater

Sixty years ago a young Tennessee Williams wrote a play looking toward the year 2001. Stairs to the Roof is a rare and different Williams work: a love story, a comedy, and an experiment in meta-theatre with a touch of early science fiction. Tennessee Williams called Stairs to the Roof "a prayer for the wild of heart who are kept in cages" and dedicated it to "all the little wage earners of the world." It reflects the would-be poet’s "season in hell" during the Depression when he had to quit college to type orders eight hours a day at the International Shoe Company in St. Louis. Stairs is Williams’ revenge, expressed through his alter ego, Benjamin Murphy, the clerk who stages a one-man rebellion against the clock, the monotony of his eight-to-five job, and all the dehumanizing forces of an increasingly mechanized and commercial society. Ben’s swift-moving series of fantastic adventures culminate in an escape from the ordinary that is in essence an endorsement of the American dream. In 1941, with the world at war and civilization in danger of collapse, Williams dared to imagine a utopian future as Ben leads us up his stairs toward the millennium.


Available: May 01 2000


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Spring Storm

Theater

When Tennessee Williams read Spring Storm aloud to his playwriting class at the University of Iowa in 1938, he was met with silent embarrassment. According to the journal he kept at the time, the rejection "badly deflated" the young playwright, so much so that he “felt like going off the deep end." Tom’s earlier journal comment that the play "is well-constructed, no social propaganda, and is suitable for the commercial stage" seems accurate enough in 1999, but was woefully naive deep in the Depression when the play’s sexual explicitness––particularly its matter-of-fact acceptance of a woman’s right to her own sexuality––would have been seen as not only shocking but also politically radical. Never produced or performed, the play would later be disavowed by its author as "simply a study of Sex––a blind animal urge or force (like the regenerative force of April) gripping four lives and leading them into a tangle of cruel and ugly relations." But the solid and deft characterizations of the four young people whose lives intertwine––the sexually alive Heavenly Critchfield, her earthy lover Dick Miles, Heavenly’s wealthy but tongue-tied admirer Arthur Shannon, and the repressed librarian Hertha Neilson who loves Arthur––while unique, foreshadow characters we will meet again and again in the Williams canon. Epic in scope, somewhat melodramatic in execution, tragic in outcome, Spring Storm created a wave of excitement among theater insiders when it was given a staged reading at The Ensemble Studio Theatre’s Octoberfest ’96.


Available: December 01 1999


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The Glass Menagerie

Theater

No play in the modern theatre has so captured the imagination and heart of the American public as Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie.  As Williams’s first popular success, it launched the brilliant, if somewhat controversial, career of our pre-eminent lyric playwright. Since its premiere in Chicago in 1944, with the legendary Laurette Taylor in the role of Amanda, the play has been the bravura piece for great actresses from Jessica Tandy to Joanne Woodward, and is studied and performed in classrooms and theatres around the world. 

The Glass Menagerie (in the reading text the author preferred) is now available only in its New Directions Paperbook edition. A new introduction by prominent Williams scholar Robert Bray, editor of The Tennessee Williams Annual Review, reappraises the play more than half a century after it won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award: "More than fifty years after telling his story of a family whose lives form a triangle of quiet desperation, Williams’s mellifluous voice still resonates deeply and universally." This edition of The Glass Menagerie also includes Williams’s essay on the impact of sudden fame on a struggling writer, "The Catastrophe of Success," as well as a short section of Williams’s own "Production Notes." The cover features a rendition of the classic line drawing by Alvin Lustig, originally done for the 1949 New Directions edition.


Available: October 14 1999


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Not About Nightingales

Theater

In early 1998, sixty years after it was written, one of Tennessee Williams’ first full-length plays, Not About Nightingales, was premiered by Britain’s Royal National Theatre and was immediately hailed as "one of the most remarkable theatrical discoveries of the last quarter century (London Evening Standard). Brought to the attention of the director Trevor Nunn by the actress Vanessa Redgrave (who has contributed a Foreword to this edition), "this early work...changed our perception of a major writer and still packs a hefty political punch" (London Independent). Written in 1938 and based on an actual newspaper story, the play follows the events of a prison atrocity which shocked the nation: convicts leading a hunger strike in a Pennsylvania prison were locked in a steam-heated cell and roasted to death. Williams later said: "I have never written anything since that could compete with it in violence and horror." Its sympathetic treatment of black and homosexual characters may have kept the play unproduced in its own time. But its flashes of lyricism and compelling dialogue presage the great plays Williams has yet to write. Not About Nightingales shows us the young playwright (for the first time using his signature "Tennessee") as a political writer, passionate about social injustice, and reflecting the plight of outcasts in Depression America. The stylistic influences of European Expressionism, radical American theatre of the 1930s, and popular film make it unique among the group of four early plays. Not About Nightingales has been edited by eminent Williams scholar Allean Hale, who has also provided an illuminating historical introduction.


Available: June 01 1998


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The Notebook Of Trigorin

Theater

At twenty-four, Tennessee Williams discovered Chekhov and felt an immediate affinity with the Russian’s art and life. Both playwrights gravitated to psychologically acute and compassionate explorations of the tortured lives and frustrations of closely bound groups of characters; both mixed the comedy and tragedy of daily life with lyric intensity. Tennessee Williams’ journey from first reading Chekhov’s The Sea Gull to his adaptation of that play as The Notebook of Trigorin mirrored his own creative life. Early on, Williams thought of directing The Sea Gull, and, over the years, often returned to the play, his empathy gradually shifting from Constantine, the youthful experimenter, to Trigorin, the world-weary writer. Williams, in his pursuit of success, had also made compromises. Near the end of his life, Williams realized his dream to interpret The Sea Gull when the University of British Columbia sponsored a production at the Vancouver Playhouse in 1981. This version, The Notebook of Trigorin, brought Chekhov’s buried conflicts to the surface, but did not meet Williams expectations, and he was still making revisions to the play when he died in 1983. It was not until 1996, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of The Sea Gull’s first performance, that The Cincinnati Playhouse staged The Notebook of Trigorin as Williams had envisioned it. This edition is based on that production.


Available: November 01 1997


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Something Cloudy Something Clear

Theater

Something Cloudy, Something Clear is, as Tennessee Williams stated, "one of the most personal plays I’ve ever written." Set in Provincetown, Cape Cod, in 1940, the play records Williams’ experiences during that "pivotal summer when I took sort of a crash course in growing up." On the brink of becoming a successful playwright, Williams was also to "come thoroughly out of the closet" and meet Kip, his first great love. Something Cloudy, Something Clear brilliantly reimagines that long ago time, now recollected through the filter of all the playwright’s successes and failures, joys and regrets. Eve Adamson, director of the original 1981 production, provides an insightful introduction in which she captures the play’s heart-breaking appeal: "It is a delicately woven tapestry of past and present, vulnerability and toughness, impetuous action and mature insight. It seeks a reconciliation between love and art, life and death, and-to use two phrases which recur in the play––exigencies of desperation and negotiation of terms. The cloudy and the clear."


Available: October 01 1995


cover image for The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. VII

The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. VII

Theater

The Theatre of Tennessee Williams brings together in matching format the plays of one of America’s most persistently influential and innovative dramatists. Arranged in chronological order, this ongoing series includes the original cast listings and production notes for all full-length plays. Now available as a New Directions paperbook, Volume VII: In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel and Other Plays, contains Williams’s shorter plays of the late ’50s and ’60s, many of them published in Dragon Country in 1970. In "dragon country... this country of endured but unendurable pain," the bar, the hotel lobby, the boarding house, the nursing home or "retirement village" are microcosms of the human condition where we are never, but always, alone. To the plays of Dragon Country are added Now the Cats with Jewelled Claws, Lifeboat Drill, and This Is the Peaceable Kingdom. This is an essential collection for all students and fans of the great playwright.


Available: September 01 1994


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The Collected Stories of Tennessee Williams

Fiction

Tennessee Williams’ Collected Stories combines the four short-story volumes published during Williams’ lifetime with previously unpublished or uncollected stories. Arranged chronologically, the forty-nine stories, when taken together with the memoir of his father that serves as a preface, not only establish Williams as a major American fiction writer of the twentieth century, but also, in Gore Vidal’s view, constitute the real autobiography of Williams’ "art and inner life."


Available: April 01 1994


cover image for The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. IV

The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. IV

Theater

The Theatre of Tennessee Williams brings together in matching format the plays of one of America’s most persistently influential and innovative dramatists. Arranged in chronological order, this ongoing series includes the original cast listings and production notes for all full-length plays. Now available as a New Directions Paperbook, Volume IV contains a wonderfully diverse collection of Williams’s works. Sweet Bird of Youth (1959) is a dramatic study of a fading Hollywood actress, who tries to recapture her youth through a young drifter half her age. In a lighter mood, Period of Adjustment (1960) tells of the marital troubles of two "Middle American couples, a departure for the playwright who himself labeled it a ’serious comedy.’" The Night of the Iguana (1961), in sharp contrast, tells of human frailty and redemptive strength on the West Coast of Mexico.


Available: November 01 1993


cover image for The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. VI

The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. VI

Theater

The Theatre of Tennessee Williams brings together in matching format the plays of one of America’s most influential and innovative dramatists. Arranged in chronological order, this ongoing series includes the original cast listings and production notes for all full-length plays. Now available as a New Directions paperbook, Volume VI: 27 Wagons Full of Cotton and Other Short Plays, contains sixteen one-act plays in Williams’ early, more realistic style––eleven from the original 1953 edition of 27 Wagons, two added to the 1966 paper edition of the same title, and three added to the 1981 cloth edition of Volume VI. Not only were the short plays the necessary seedbed for many of Williams’ longer plays; they were also crucial experiments in both theme and style. Williams envisioned these short plays for small theatre productions, which he hoped would be "an irritant in the shell of their community."


Available: September 01 1992


cover image for The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. III

The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. III

Theater

The Theatre of Tennessee Williams brings together in a matching format the plays of one of Americas most influential and innovative dramatists. Arranged in chronological order, this ongoing series includes the original cast listings and production notes. Volume Ill of the series includes Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Orpheus Descending (1957), and Suddenly Last Summer (1958). The first, which won both the Pulitzer Prize and Drama Critics Award, has proved every bit as successful as William’s earlier A Streetcar Named Desire. The other two plays, though different in kind, both have something of the quality of Greek tragedy in 20th-century settings, bringing about catharsis through ritual death.


Available: September 01 1991


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Baby Doll & Tiger Tail

Theater

In 1956, Time magazine called Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll "just possibly the dirtiest American-made motion picture that has ever been legally exhibited." The taut, vivid drama of a voluptuous child-bridge, who refuses to consummate her marriage to an older, down-on-his-luck cotton-gin owner in Tiger Tail County, Mississippi until she is "ready," has gained in humor and pathos over the years as society has caught up with the author’s savagely honest view of bigotry and lust in the rural South. But Tennessee Williams was first and foremost a writer for the stage, and this reissue of his original screenplay for the Elia Kazan movie of Baby Doll is now accompanied by the script of the full-length stage play, Tiger Tail, developed from that screenplay during the ’70s. The text, which incorporates the author’s final revisions, records the play as it was produced at the Hippodrome Theatre Workshop in Gainesville, Florida, in 1979.


Available: May 01 1991


cover image for The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. II

The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. II

Theater

The Theatre of Tennessee Williams brings together in a matching format the plays of a genius of the American theatre. Arranged in chronological order this ongoing series includes the original cast listings and production notes. The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, a play in three acts, was intended as an alternate to Summer and Smoke (1948), but was never produced on Broadway. These two versions of the same play introduce Volume 2. They are followed by The Rose Tattoo (1950), an exploration of love and death in a Sicilian fishing community on the American Gulf Coast, and Camino Real (1953), a unique work of symbolism and fantasy that creates a mythic landscape of beauty and horror.


Available: September 01 1990


cover image for The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. V

The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. V

Theater

The Theatre of Tennessee Williams brings together in a matching format the plays of a genius of the American theatre. Arranged in chronological order, this ongoing series includes the original cast listings and production notes. Leading off Volume 5 is The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (1964), a play that explores the tenacity of the human body and spirit when confronted with death. The more light-hearted Kingdom of Earth (The Seven Descents of Myrtle) was first produced on Broadway in 1968: the text offered here incorporates changes the author made for its 1975 revival. Small Craft Warnings (1972), one of Williams’s more searching works, is based on one of his shorter dramas, "Confessional," published in Dragon Country (1969). The volume concludes with The Two-Character Play (1975), the author’s reworking of his earlier Out Cry (1973).


Available: September 01 1990


cover image for The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. I

The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. I

Theater

The Theatre of Tennessee Williams brings together in a matching format the plays of one of America’s most influential and innovative dramatists. Arranged in chronological order, this ongoing series includes the original cast listings and production notes. Volume 1 leads with Battle of Angels, Williams’ first produced play (1940), an early version of Orpheus Descending. This is followed by the texts of his first great popular successes: The Glass Menagerie (1945) and the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), which established Williams’s reputation once and for all as a genius of the modern American theatre.


Available: September 01 1990


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The Red Devil Battery Sign

Theater

It is not widely enough appreciated that in his late plays Tennessee Williams had become a largely experimental playwright who, in the words of one London critic of The Red Devil Battery Sign, "bursts the seams of the theatre." Williams is our great poetic visionary and in The Red Devil Battery Sign the vision has become nightmare, the nightmare of a corrupt and decadent civilization on the brink of destruction. The Red Devil Battery Company (which first appeared in the 1966 novella, "The Knightly Quest") is Williams’ symbol for the military-industrial complex and all the dehumanizing trends it represents from mindless cocktail party chatter to bribery of officials, to assassination plots directed against those who won’t play the game, to attempted coups by right-wing zealots. Trapped in a surreal Dallas landscape (lit by the flickering menace of the Red Devil billboard) are the Woman Downtown––the abused daughter of a crooked Texas politician and electro-shocked wife of the Red Devil president––and King, once the leader of a mariachi band, but now dying of a brain tumor and demeaned by being his hard-working wife’s "invalid dependent." And in wordless counterpoint to the hallucinatory plot of the Woman and King’s affair are heard the mariachi guitars strumming life’s illusions and the wolf-like cries of roaming gangs of homeless youths poised on the outskirts of the city. "No one can write better [than Tennessee Williams] of the brief passion of two victims of life’s dirty tricks," wrote the Daily Mail’s Peter Lewis of the 1977 London production on which this edition is based.


Available: May 01 1988


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Stopped Rocking And Other Screenplays

Theater

Written at various times over the last twenty-five years but never produced, the four scripts included in Tennessee Williams’s Stopped Rocking and Other Screenplays encompass both the realistic style of "the early Williams" (the author’s quotes) and the more experimental dramatic devices of many of his "later" plays. Two screenplays from the fifties, All Gaul Is Divided and The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond, remained in the files of Williams’s New Orleans apartment until a thorough cleaning uncovered them in the mid-seventies. Thus, All Gaul, an expanded version of the story of a St. Louis teacher’s dreams of love told in A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur (1978) actually predates that play. A companion piece in mood and style, The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond lyrically evokes the late twenties debutante society of Memphis and the Delta plantations. Adapted from the graphic short story of the same name, One Arm concerns a young male hustler awaiting execution for murder. Because much of the visual action is combined with a voice-over narration, Williams considered the form of this "film-play" from the late sixties somewhat experimental. In Stopped Rocking (1977), Williams returns to a familiar theme, the institution as the last haven of those who cannot cope with daily conflict and have "resigned from life." He was confident that this play, like so many of his others, would eventually find its audience: "I know that the ’dark’ of the work is more than balanced by its humanity, and that this light of humanity will tip the balance favorably, as a natural act of grace.”


Available: August 01 1984


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Clothes For A Summer Hotel

Theater

The late Tennessee Williams’s Clothes for a Summer Hotel made its New York debut in 1980. Here Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, often seen as symbols of the doomed youth of the jazz age, become two halves of a single creative psyche, each part alternately feeding and then devouring the other. Set in Highland Hospital near Asheville, North Carolina, where Zelda spent her last confinement, this "ghost play" begins several years after Scott’s death of a heart attack in California. But the past is "still always present" in Zelda, and Williams’s constant shifting of chronology and mixing of remembrance with ghostly re-enactment suggest that our real intimacy is with the shadow characters of our own minds. As Williams said in the Author’s Note to the Broadway production: "Our reason for taking extraordinary license with time and place is that in an asylum and on its grounds liberties of this kind are quite prevalent: and also these liberties allow us to explore in more depth what we believe is truth of character." Williams poses the inevitable, unanswerable questions: Did Scott prevent Zelda from achieving an independent creativity? Did Zelda’s demands force Scott to squander his talents and turn to alcohol? Whose betrayal––emotional, creative, sexual––destroyed the other? But he poses these questions in a new way: in the act of creation, Zelda and Scott are now aware of their eventual destruction, and the creative fire that consumed two artists combines symbolically with the fire that ended Zelda’s life.


Available: June 01 1983


cover image for Lovely Sunday For Creve Coeur

Lovely Sunday For Creve Coeur

Theater

It is a warm June morning in the West End of St. Louis in the mid-thirties––a lovely Sunday for a picnic at Creve Coeur Lake. But Dorothea, one of Tennessee Williams’s most engaging "marginally youthful," forever hopeful Southern belles, is home waiting for a phone call from the principal of the high school where she teaches civics––the man she expects to fulfill her deferred dreams of romance and matrimony. Williams’s unerring dialogue reveals each of the four characters of A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur with precision and clarity: Dorothea, who does even her "setting-up exercises" with poignant flutters; Bodey, her German roommate, who wants to pair Dotty with her beer-drinking twin, Buddy, thereby assuring nieces, nephews, and a family for both herself and Dotty; Helena, a fellow teacher, with the "eyes of a predatory bird," who would like to "rescue" Dotty from her vulgar, common surroundings and substitute an elegant but sterile spinster life; and Miss Gluck, a newly orphaned and distraught neighbor, whom Bodey comforts with coffee and crullers while Helena mocks them both. Focusing on one morning and one encounter of four women, Williams once again skillfully explores, with comic irony and great tenderness, the meaning of loneliness, the need for human connection, as well as the inevitable compromises one must make to get through "the long run of life."


Available: May 01 1980


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The Two Character Play

Theater

Reality and fantasy are interwoven with terrifying power as two actors on tour––brother and sister––find themselves deserted by the troupe in a decrepit "state theatre in an unknown state." Faced (perhaps) by an audience expecting a performance, they enact "The Two-Character Play"––an illusion within an illusion, an "out cry" from isolation, panic, and fear. "I think it is my most beautiful play since Streetcar," Tennessee Williams said, "and I’ve never stopped working on it… It is a cri de coeur, but then all creative work, all life, in a sense is a cri de coeur." In the course of its evolution, several earlier versions of The Two-Character Play have been produced. The first of them was presented in 1967 in London and Chicago and brought out in 1969 by New Directions in a signed limited edition. The next, staged in 1973 in New York under the title Out Cry, was published by New Directions in 1973. The third version (New York 1975), again titled The Two-Character Play, is the one Tennessee Williams wished to include in Volume V of The Theatre of Tennessee Williams. It is this most recent version which is presented in this ND Paperbook.


Available: November 01 1979


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Dragon Country

Theater

"Dragon country, the country of pain, is an uninhabitable country which is inhabited." So Tennessee Williams expressed the theme of "endured but unendurable pain" which runs through all of these eight plays. The most recent among them, In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel, shows an artist, worn to a nervous ruin by a breakthrough in his painting technique, abandoned and destroyed by his witch of a wife. From earlier in the Sixties we have the two "Slapstick Tragedies": The Mutilated––a once-beautiful woman whose breast has been removed is blackmailed by her "friend"––and The Gnädiges Fräulein––a "celebrated soubrette" is reduced to battling "cocaloony birds" for discarded fish on a Florida Key. I Rise in Flame, Cried the Phoenix is based on the death of D. H. Lawrence, while I Can’t Imagine Tomorrow is a paradigm of human inability to share or communicate. Confessional presents the "regulars" of a California beachfront bar: an aging beautician celebrating her brother’s "death day," an alcoholic doctor who botches a difficult childbirth, and two men who give us new insight into the unique sadness of the "gay" world. The Frosted Glass Coffin reveals a group of elderly people in a retirement hotel, dying off one by one in the intense zinc-white light of Miami. Two women (with skin and weight problems) look for fun at a convention in A Perfect Analysis Given by a Parrot.



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Hard Candy

Fiction

Hard Candy contains Tennessee Williams’s short stories written after the publication of his first collection of short fiction, One Arm, and before the stories appearing in The Knightly Quest. These volumes have established him as an original, compelling, and honest master of the short story. The stories in Hard Candy display Mr. Williams’s mastery of several very different styles. "Three Players of a Summer Game," for instance, is as powerful and moving a study of the disintegration of an individual as A Streetcar Named Desire. The delicate and luminous nostalgia of "The Resemblance Between a Violin Case and a Coffin" will remind readers of The Glass Menagerie. Other stories, like "Two on a Party," are more colloquial and brittle; and one––"The Coming of Something to the Widow Holly"––is an excursion into ironical fantasy. Yet each of the stories demonstrates, in its different way, the characteristic blend of psychological penetration with compassion and understanding that has marked Tennessee Williams’s successes in the theater.



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27 Wagons Full of Cotton

Theater

The thirteen one-act plays collected in this volume include some of Tennessee Williams’s finest and most powerful work. They are full of the perception of life as it is, and the passion for life as it ought to be, which have made The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire classics of the American theater. Only one of these plays (The Purification) is written in verse, but in all of them the approach to character is by way of poetic revelation. Whether Williams is writing of derelict roomers in a New Orleans boarding house (The Lady of Larkspur Lotion) or the memories of a venerable traveling salesman (The Last of My Solid Gold Watches) or of delinquent children (This Property is Condemned) his insight into human nature is that of the poet. He can compress the basic meaning of life — its pathos or its tragedy, its bravery or the quality of its love––into one small scene or a few moments of dialogue. Mr. Williams’s views on the role of the little theater in American culture are contained in a stimulating essay, "Something wild…,” which serves as an introduction to this collection.



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In The Winter Of Cities

Poetry

Tennessee Williams’s fame as a playwright has unjustly overshadowed his accomplishment in poetry. This paperback edition of In The Winter of Cities––his collected poems to 1962––permits a wider audience to know Williams the poet. The poems in this volume range from songs and short lyrics to personal statements of the greatest intensity and power. They are rich in imagery and illuminated by the psychological intuition which we know so well from Williams’s plays.