The definitive biography of America's greatest playwright from the celebrated drama critic of The New Yorker.
John Lahr has produced a theater biography like no other. Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh gives intimate access to the mind of one of the most brilliant dramatists of his century, whose plays reshaped the American theater and the nation's sense of itself. This astute, deeply researched biography sheds a light on Tennessee Williams's warring family, his guilt, his creative triumphs and failures, his sexuality and numerous affairs, his misreported death, even the shenanigans surrounding his estate.
With vivid cameos of the formative influences in Williams's life - his fierce, belittling father Cornelius; his puritanical, domineering mother Edwina; his demented sister Rose, who was lobotomized at the age of thirty-three; his beloved grandfather, the Reverend Walter Dakin - Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh is as much a biography of the man who created A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as it is a trenchant exploration of Williams’s plays and the tortured process of bringing them to stage and screen.
The portrait of Williams himself is unforgettable: a virgin until he was twenty-six, he had serial homosexual affairs thereafter as well as long-time, bruising relationships with Pancho Gonzalez and Frank Merlo. With compassion and verve, Lahr explores how Williams's relationships informed his work and how the resulting success brought turmoil to his personal life.
Where does Tennessee Williams rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
I'm sure it would rank high for content, but I found the audiobook difficult to focus on for one reason.
What was one of the most memorable moments of Tennessee Williams?
Didn't get that far.
What do you think the narrator could have done better?
Elizabeth Ashley can do no wrong, and what was unfortunate about the reading could have been corrected by a sound editor.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
Again, had to stop listening pretty early on.
Any additional comments?
There was one annoying thing about this audiobook--you hear the narrator, again and again, taking in breath between, and often during, sentences. The sound of the air going into her mouth is so loud that it's hard to focus on anything else. A good sound editor should have been able to mute all of these inhales. Pauses are much easier to take than these gasps for air. It would be really great if someone from the company that recorded this book could make those edits and then announce on this page that they have done it so those of us who have purchased the book could re-download the corrected version.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
I have been on the lookout for a biography of Tennessee Williams for some times. John Lahr is a well known biographer and drama critic so when his biography of Williams came out I bought it. It is a long but well written critical biography of the famous playwright. Williams died in 1983.
Williams famously fictionalized and immortalized his dysfunctional family in his drama “The Glass Menagerie” which premiered on Broadway in 1945. Other famous plays are “A Streetcar Named Desire” 1947, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” 1955. These plays were also made into movies.
Lahr writes that Williams spent the 1960s drunk, drugged, and in precarious-to-shattered mental health with his hits mostly behind him. William wrote “The Gnadiges Fraulein” 1966 while on amphetamines. Lahr defended Williams’s agent Audrey Wood and director Elia Kazan. Williams blamed them for his difficulties. Lahr said Williams always blamed others for his difficulties and failures. In the saga of Williams rise and fall Lahr provides information about the actors who were in the plays and movies.
Lahr did a great deal of research to write this biography, he made extensive use of Williams’s letters and journals. The book is a study of William’s imagination, his career, as well as his life. It is well-written biography of a difficult and mentally-ill man who wrote great plays. Elizabeth Ashley narrated the book.
26 of 29 people found this review helpful
If you like great biographies about dramatic men read by what sounds like a seventy year old Broadway actress who smoked three packs a day since she was thirteen, this is your book.
15 of 17 people found this review helpful
Would you try another book from John Lahr and/or Elizabeth Ashley?
Not really sure! I guess it would depend on the topic.
Has Tennessee Williams turned you off from other books in this genre?
Not at all.
Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Elizabeth Ashley?
I think the narrator was choosen because of her gravely voice. Maybe it was supposed to be similar to Tennessee? Who knows. But after hours and hours, her voice started to drive me nuts.
If this book were a movie would you go see it?
Any additional comments?
I didn't hate this book! But I didn't enjoy it either. Everyone knows Tennessee was a drug addict and a homosexual.,but so many hours just got old. I might have enjoyed an abridged version better. I would only recommend this book version to an absolute devout Tennessee fan. If you're not, I would pass on the book.
27 of 35 people found this review helpful
John Lahr’s biography of Tennessee Williams reflects on amped masculinity. Williams’ life and writing expose the raw edges of a man’s perspective on love and sex.
Lahr’s biography of Williams only touches on femininity in his characterization of Maria Britneva. Williams’ life story transforms sexuality into a one-dimensional view of human relationship. The view is from the characterization of Williams’ libido by Lahr. This is not to say that Lahr does not cover a great deal more (almost too much) in his detailed biography but it is a striking subject in Williams’ tumultuous life.
Lahr clearly makes the case for Williams’ creative ability. Williams’ ability to translate life into universal understanding of male sexuality makes him a genius. Though Williams was gay, he defines the raw edges of male sexuality; for that alone, he deserves fame and fortune. What is needed now is a biography of a woman who has successfully translated female sexuality as clearly as Lahr’s biography of “Tennessee Williams”. That biography may be out there but men are unlikely to give up their prejudices to read it; at least, in the foreseeable future; i.e. until then, men and women will undeservedly remain separate and unequal.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Brillant the best Williams bio, things I was curious about were revealed, and things I knew nothing about were so juicy and personal. Elizabeth Ashley you were absolutely perfect, love timbre of your voice. John Lahr gave us a very detailed story of the brilliant and tortured my beloved Tennessee Williams.
Oftentimes, good stories suffer from poor narration. Elizabeth Ashley is pitch perfect in her narration of John Lahr's exceptional book. Listeners will not be disappointed.
One of the best biographies I've ever read. The performance by Elizabeth Ashley brought the story and William's words to life for me.
Great narration and content. Fascinating portrait of the artist and the times. Well worth a listen. Might have liked more stories about some of the films, but that's a minor qualm.
Williams is my favorite American playwright. I only ever saw him towards the end of his life when he was not at his best. Ashley does a FABULOUS job with the text. Many congratulations to her. John Lahr has done due justice to the life using great sources and quotes and treats his subject with the respect he deserves.
I looked forward to this book as I am a great admirer of Tennessee Williams. I have read other books written by John Lahr and thought that I was 'on a winner' with my choice.
The narrator was dreadful . She ruined the book completely. I could not bear to listen to it. I have had to mark the three categories or this will not be accepted so I have complied. As I did not finish the book, these are not true. I am sure that the book is very good, the experience wasn't .
2 of 2 people found this review helpful