Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams Vol. 1


VOLUME I + 1920-1945


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Tennessee Williams's innovative approach and natural lyricism transformed the American stage after World War 11. Both his major and minor works continue to be read and performed worldwide at the same time that his earliest, and previously unproduced, plays recall the origins of his distinguished career and make audiences remember what theatrical excitement is all about. To this record is now added the first volume of The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams.

Williams's youthful correspondence, written from the haven of his grandparents' home in Clarksdale, Mississippi, reveals an eye for precise detail and dramatic structure. Subsequent letters chronicle the Williams family drama and follow "Tom" through a painful return to St. Louis and later attendance at three Midwestern universities until, in 1939, he assumes his famous persona, "Tennessee," and begins a transforming life on the road. The Selected Letters culminates in 1945 with his first Broadway success, The Glass Menagerie.

Tennessee Williams wrote to family, friends, and fellow artists with equal measures of piety, wit, and astute self-knowledge. Presented with a running commentary to separate Williams's sometimes hilarious, but often devious, counter-reality from truth, the letters form a virtual autobiography of the great American dramatist.

Volume I: 1920-1945 of The Selected Letters o f Tennessee Williams, 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, has authored and edited books on Tennessee Williams and Eudora Welty and published widely in the field of Southern American literature. He received a senior fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities for work on The Selected Letters.

NANCY M. TISCHLER, Professor Emerita of English at Pennsylvania State University, is the author of the first critical study of Williams's work, Tennessee Williams: Rebellious Puritan as well as many other contributions to Williams scholarship. Her work on The Selected Letters was supported by the Institute for the Arts and Humanistic Studies at Pennsylvania State University.

Both editors received research fellowships from the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin.

jacket photograph by George Platt Lynes; courtesy of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York City; design by Sylvia Frezzolini Severance

Published by Oberon Books - ISBN 1 84002 226 4

  • "Great writers always sound as though they are speaking directly to you - and in their own particular tone of voice. Tennessee Williams wrote as he spoke, wittily and with disarming candour. I hear the gentle insistence of his beautiful Southern accent as I read these letters." - Sir Peter Hall
  • "Tennessee was a splendidly indiscreet letter writer ... his is the most distinctive, humorous, American voice since Mark Twain." - Gore Vidal
  • "The American century gave us at least two great dramatists. Here, in these fascinating letters, we can follow the authentic formation of one of them, as he begins the long and painful process of making a religion of endurance." - David Hare
  • "Tennessee Williams has been the subject of many biographies, but none of them as revealing as these letters, which constitute the first volume of his own true-life memoirs, brilliantly edited with the promise of more to come. The theatre queue is already all around the block, but there is a life here too." - Sheridan Morley


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