When Memoirs was first published in 1975, it created quite a bit of turbulence in the media--though long self-identified as a gay man, Williams' candour about his love life, sexual encounters, and drug use was found shocking in and of itself, and such revelations by America's greatest living playwright were called "a raw display of private life" by The New York Times Book Review. As it turns out, more than thirty years later, Williams' look back at his life is not quite so scandalous as it once seemed; he recalls his childhood in Mississippi and St. Louis, his prolonged struggle as a "starving artist," the "overnight" success of The Glass Menagerie in 1945, the death of his long-time companion Frank Merlo in 1962, and his confinement to a psychiatric ward in 1969 and subsequent recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, all with the same directness, compassion, and insight that epitomize his plays.
Tennessee Williams was born in 1911 in Columbus, Mississippi, where his grandfather was the episcopal clergyman. When his father, a travelling salesman, moved with his family to St Louis some years later, both he and his sister found it impossible to settle down to city life. He entered college during the Depression and left after a couple of years to take a clerical job in a shoe company. He stayed there for two years, spending the evenings writing. He entered the University of Iowa in 1938 and completed his course, at the same time holding a large number of part-time jobs of great diversity. He received a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1940 for his play Battle of Angels, and he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948 and 1955. Among his many other plays Penguin have published The Glass Menagerie (1944), A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Summer and Smoke (1948), The Rose Tattoo (1951), Camino Real (1953), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Orpheus Descending (1957), Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), Period of Adjustment (1960), The Night of the Iguana (1961), The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore (1963; revised 1964) and Small Craft Warnings (1972). Tennessee Williams died in 1983.
Image reproduced Courtesy of New Directions Pubilshing.