Book review: Tennessee Williams, by John Lahr

Lahr Tennessee WilliamsLahr, John. Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh. W.W. Norton. 2014. $39.95. 765p. HC. 9780393021240

Heavily researched and influenced by the playwright’s writings, this detailed biography of his life and influence on the world of theater presents Williams’ tumultuous childhood and young adulthood, his numerous relationships and affairs, the process of bringing his work to the stage, and the troubles surrounding his estate after his death.

Over 12 years, Lahr extensively researched this book. Each of five sections compares one play to the events in Williams’ life while he wrote that one play with an analysis of the works relating to his life and emotions. Letters and personal remembrances show the inside dealings of Broadway and Hollywood which give the reader a feeling of being present for the creation of the plays and films.

Because Lahr has drawn heavily from primary sources and documents regarding the life and legacy of Tennessee Williams, he has produced a thorough biography that will not disappoint either theater fans or literary enthusiasts. The easily readable style gives the book a novel-like style.

Both a biography and a work of interpretive criticism, this book is a welcome addition to a public library’s collection or an academic library’s special collection of theater works or biographies of LGBT individuals. This biography of Tennessee Williams is already long listed for the 2014 National Book Award.

Jenni Frencham, Librarian
Cesar Chavez Middle School, Hayward (CA)

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