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Publisher's Summary

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.
©2014 John Lahr (P)2014 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Tojo on 01-17-16

A question for the audio engineers

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.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Jean on 10-05-14


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.

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26 of 29 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
1 out of 5 stars
By F. Wynn on 09-09-16

Ruined by Narrator

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 .

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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