Eight Mortal Ladies Possessed

Theater by Tennessee Williams

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.”

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Paperback (published January 1, 2001)


Tennessee Williams

America’s playwright