Tom Mitchell

Tom Mitchell

Tom Mitchell is professor emeritus at the University of llinois Urbana-Champaign. He has directed all of Williams’s early full-length plays and adapted several of Williams’s unpublished short stories for the stage.

cover image of the book The Caterpillar Dogs and Other Early Stories

The Caterpillar Dogs and Other Early Stories

by Tennessee Williams

With a contribution by Tom Mitchell

These seven previously unpublished tales were penned by Thomas Lanier Williams of Missouri before he became Tennessee. His voice is unmistakable as he captures private moments in the lives of urban and rural Americans surviving the Great Depression, and the reliable idiosyncrasies and quiet dignity of Williams’s eccentrics are already present. Consider the diminutive octogenarian of “The Caterpillar Dogs,” who may have just met her match in a pair of laughing Pekinese that refuse to surrender to her demands; the retired evangelist in “Every Friday Nite Is Kiddies Nite,” who receives a message from God to move to St. Louis and go to the movies; or the distraught factory worker whose stifled artistic spirit, and just a soupçon of the macabre, propel the drama of “Stair to the Roof.”

In 1935, Williams described his short-story writing this way: “It is full of bombastic irrelevancies, the characters aren’t logically developed, and the romantic spirit . . . is almost unbearably sweet. But I was only trying to create a single, poetic effect and think I may have succeeded a little in doing that.” This volume is edited and introduced by Tom Mitchell: theater director, noted Tennessee Williams scholar, and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Is there such a thing as innocence? Apparently there was in the 1930s, and Williams reckons with it in these stories.

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