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Tennessee Williams : Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh


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On 31 March 1945, at The Playhouse Theatre on Forty-eight Street the curtain rose on the opening night of The Glass Menagerie. Tennessee Williams, the show's thirty-four year old playwright, sat hunched in an aisle seat, looking, according to one paper, 'like a farm boy in his Sunday best'. The Broadway production went on to be an instant sell-out with the opening night closing to thunderous applause as the cast took an astonishing twenty-four curtain calls. Finding purchase with an American public recently liberated from years of wartime hardship, Tennessee Williams's work, famous for its tense emotional truths and spiritual transformation of the self, ushered in - as Arthur Miller declared - 'a revolution' in American theatre.

As former New Yorker theatre critic John Lahr shows, Williams put his best self - and most of his life -into his work, becoming the most autobiographical of American playwrights. Lahr tracks his work carefully as a way of following the moral and psychological shifts in Williams, including his early breakdown in 1935; 'the blue devils' of depression that would dog him; his turbulent struggle with his own sexuality; and how the ghosts of his past were reworked into his cast of characters: his absent, combustible father, his prim and pious mother trapped in a toxic marriage, and -'the great psychological trauma' of Williams's life - the family tragedy of his 'mad' sister Rose, victim to one of the first lobotomies performed in America.

Drawing on original sources, John Lahr's gripping and insightful biography delivers a generous consideration of the man, his psychology and his plays. This book was a Finalist in the 2014 National Book Award for Best Non-Fiction.

Author: John Lahr

Paperback, 560 Pages, Orig. Published 2014, This Edition Published September 2015  

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