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Tennessee Williams and the South

By Kenneth Holditch

By Richard Freeman Leavitt

184 pp., 115 b&w illustrations

9781604734652 Paper $22.00T

Paper, $22.00

Words and pictures that show the South's imprint on the life and works of the great playwright

No other writer has been more closely connected to the region of his birth than Tennessee Williams. Indeed, he remarked on several occasions that the farther south one went in America, the more congenial life was. He wrote, he said, not only of the present but also of the past and of a South that had no counterpart anywhere else.

Combining his words with pictures, this biographical album reveals the closeness of Williams to the American South. Although he roamed far, he never forgot the "more congenial climate" the South afforded him and his creativity.

Williams was born in Mississippi in 1911 and lived there with his family until he was seven. Thomas Lanier Williams, who became "Tennessee," absorbed much of his creative material from this Mississippi home place. Many of his ancestors were distinguished Tennesseans, a fact in which he took considerable pride. Although he grew to maturity in St. Louis, it was to the South that he continually returned in his memory and in his imagination. It was in New Orleans and Key West that he chose to spend a large part of his later years.

His characters--Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie, Alma Winemiller in Summer and Smoke, and Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire--are victims of having outlived the southern past in which they had been at home. Unlike them, despite the region's industrial transformation, Williams always found the South his own.

This book underscores that intimate connection by featuring photographs of people and places that influenced him. Enhanced with a long essay and captioned with quotations from Williams's plays, memoirs, and letters, more than one hundred pictures document the keen sense of place that he felt throughout his life and career.

Kenneth Holditch, a professor emeritus at the University of New Orleans, the editor of the Tennessee Williams Journal, and the co-editor (with Mel Gussaw) of the Library of America edition of Williams's works, lives in New Orleans.

Richard Freeman Leavitt is the editor/compiler of The World of Tennessee Williams and the compiler of the photographs and the genealogical chart for Lyle Leverich's Tom: The Unknown Williams. He lives in the Great North Woods region of New Hampshire.

184 pp., 115 b&w illustrations