Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh (Paperback)

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National Book Critics Circle Award Winner: Biography Category

National Book Award Finalist

2015 Winner of the Sheridan Morley Prize for Theatre Biography

American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award

A Chicago Tribune 'Best Books of 2014'

USA Today: 10 Books We Loved Reading

Washington Post, 10 Best Books of 2014



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.


Lahr captures not just Williams’s tempestuous public persona but also his backstage life, where his agent Audrey Wood and the director Elia Kazan play major roles, and Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani, Bette Davis, Maureen Stapleton, Diana Barrymore, and Tallulah Bankhead have scintillating walk-on parts. This is a biography of the highest order: a book about the major American playwright of his time written by the major American drama critic of his time.



About the Author


National Book Award finalist John Lahr is the author of Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, among other books. He was the senior drama critic of The New Yorker for over two decades. He has twice won the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism and is the first critic ever to win a Tony Award (coauthor, Elaine Stritch at Liberty).

Praise For…


Scrupulously researched and elegantly written…makes you feel the day-to-day life of Tennessee, onstage and off, like no other I’ve read…required reading for anyone in the theater.
— Nathan Lane - New York Times Book Review

Offers plenty of backstage anecdotes and high private drama…. But Mr. Lahr, ever the critic, keeps the plays themselves front and center…. The book has already won enthusiastic advance notice…along with blurbs from a kick line of A-list ‘theatricals’ including Helen Mirren, John Guare and Tony Kushner.
— Jennifer Schuessler - New York Times

Scintillating on the backstage and bedroom dramas and almost intrusively perceptive on the autobiographical nature of Williams’ art.
— Charles McNulty - Los Angeles Times

Intricately detailed… gripping.
— Janet Maslin - New York Times

A masterpiece.
— Hilton Als - New Yorker

A crucial contribution to the arguments that should always rage around a man who was one of the greatest American playwrights of his tempestuous century.
— Chris Jones - Chicago Tribune

Raises the curtain on Tennessee Williams.
— Elissa Schappell - Vanity Fair

There is only one word for this biography: superb.
— Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

Brilliant… [Lahr’s] achievement is not likely to be surpassed.
— Publishers Weekly

Splendid beyond words. It would be hard to imagine a more satisfying biography.
— Bill Bryson

This is a masterpiece about a genius. Only John Lahr, with his perceptions about the theater, about writers, about poetry, and about people could have written this book. What a marvelous read.
— Helen Mirren

Unsurpassable…An eloquent, spellbinding narrative that emerges as an instant classic.
— Ron Chernow, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Washington: A Life

It is a MAGNIFICENT work. Mesmerizing, illuminating, and heartbreaking.
— André Gregory

Brilliant and seamless. A labor of the profoundest love, and it comes from the heart and mind of one of our greatest theater writers.
— André Bishop, artistic director of Lincoln Center Repertory Theater

A splendid book, one of the finest critical biographies extant.
— Robert Brustein

The singular achievement of John Lahr’s magisterial book, Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh is that it’s one betwitching writer’s journey into the lives—public and private—of another.

— Jeremy Gerard - Deadline Hollywood

Magnificent…one of the best written and most extraordinary biographies I’ve ever read, in any field.
— Mike Fischer - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

At once sensitive and magisterial, and it fulfills the ultimate test for a literary biography by convincing you that the works cannot be understood without it. Once you have read it, it becomes part of their meaning.
— John Carey - Sunday Times (UK)

It is a masterpiece on several levels: of synthesis and analysis (an amazing life apprehended afresh, with great learning lightly borne and a strong streak of showbiz savvy; a page-turner that is almost embarrassingly devourable).
— Paul Taylor - The Independent

Essential reading for anyone who cares about the theater.
— Wendy Smith - Daily Beast

Dazzling… an epic achievement.
— Ann Levin - Associated Press

Fascinating… Lahr gives us a sense of the ebb and flow of Williams’s life, exercising a critic’s keen eye on the plays, a novelist’s gift for characterization, and a historian’s awareness of the way a changing American society colored his work… As much a biography of the plays as of the playwright—a book that lets the life illuminate the work and the work illuminate the life.
— Charles Matthews - Washington Post

Excellent… A forceful claim for the playwright’s immortality.
— Laura Collins-Hughes - Boston Globe

Lahr’s expansive, polished and keenly observed volume is a major work of American theater criticism and biography.
— Gerald Bartell - San Francisco Chronicle

Elegantly written as well as psychologically acute… Lahr balances quotation and interpretation, sympathy and criticism, in this searing and unforgettable portrait of the artist who gave voice to the repressed, the reviled and the restless.
— Brenda Wineapple - Wall Street Journal

[P]rodigiously researched… acute and elegant… Lahr is most superb on the relationship between Williams and the director Eliz Kazan, perhaps his greatest collaborator.
— New York Times Holiday Gift Guide

Witting, moving, ferociously intelligent… essential reading for any theater fan.
— Jocelyn McClurg - USA Today
Product Details
ISBN: 9780393351651
ISBN-10: 0393351653
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: September 21st, 2015
Pages: 784
Language: English

How to read more

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How To Read More

If you love reading, but for some reason you read less and less, know that everything is fine. It happens.
Our lives today have so many things that distract us - how can we not put books away when all these movies, TV shows, YouTube videos, social networks and endless surfing in online stores are around ...
Yes, it's really hard to resist, but you certainly can!

In this article, we want to share with you some tips to read more often and more successfully.
These are some notes and some practices that we have collected for our SUNDOG BOOKS readers club.
And maybe it will bring more books into your life!

Why do we want/need to read more?

To start reading more, you have to understand why you need it.
And you will be surprised, but your goals can be quite varied:

- for work
If you read a lot on duty, then you definitely need to speed up the process. The logic here is simple: read faster → work faster → more time for books for yourself.

- for education
you need this for your educational career or sometimes you just want to read to learn. And, with all the new alternative ways to gain knowledge (podcasts, online courses and videos), the book still does an excellent job of this task too.

- for self-development
all exercises for increasing speed, one way or another, improve cognition and memory.

- for fun
because good books always = fun!

Book lovers have an additional special goal for reading more often. If you love literature, you will understand what we mean: you want to catch everything - to follow modern literature, and not forget about the classics, look into non-fiction and children's publications. And there’s so much you want to reread! The goals are ambitious, but attainable if you read a lot.

 

And so - How to read more:
We will tell you about the methods that we use ourselves. Perhaps some will suit you as well.

 

15 minutes a day

You've probably already heard this rule: if you want to start a healthy habit, devote 15 minutes a day to it. Once upon a time, we all read irregularly, in jumps and starts. Sometimes we cannot open a book we have begun weeks ago. Therefore, you should decide to create a rule: devote at least 15 minutes a day to reading. Try reading before bed, or maybe during lunchtime, or even when you are having your morning coffee.

You will see progress immediately. You will notice that almost always your 15 minutes will grow into half an hour or more. But the most remarkable thing is that in three weeks your hands themselves will be looking for a book.

 

50 First Pages
This method advises - If the book hasn't hooked you from the first 50 pages, put it aside! Life is too short to read uninteresting books.

It is necessary to change the approach to books. At first it will be hard for you to stop and put the book down. Even if we put the book away, it will seem to reproach us from the shelf, mocking us as quitters. But in the end we should come to one simple thought: if it doesn’t hook your attention, you should not force yourself to read it.

***Fifty pages is not a bad test. Not the most objective, but definitely effective. It helps to determine whether it interests you or not, and whether to spend time on things that do not excite.

 

Reader's Diary

This should be used to improve the quality of reading - to make it more conscious. For starters, it can be a simple notebook with headings:

  • Author
  • Year of publication
  • Main characters
  • Scene
  • Plot
  • Theme
  • Quotes

And, yes, a reader's diary is not a thing about quantity, but about quality. But, it can also motivate. When you open your diary and start looking at quotes (especially quotes), you immediately really want to read.

 

Maybe a Book Bet?
Several people can participate. Members of the betting group can come from friends, family, and also your colleagues. And of course you can set your own rules for participation, but we'll give you a simple example:

Everyone in the group should read and review a book over the course of a month with weekly updates. Anyone who does not finish a review buys the book for all other participants for the next month.

 

Speed Reading

Another effective way to increase the amount you read is speed reading. The logic here is simple - the faster you read, the more books you can enjoy.

*There are many online courses on speed reading, and you can also study on your own using instructional books. But, it is worth noting that this is a serious learning process that will require some effort on your part.

 

Outcome

Reading every day is quite attainable, the main thing is to try to make it a habit.
Sometimes, instead of heading for Facebook, try opening a book and soon you won’t even remember why you needed to wander around social media.
And also - don't forget about audiobooks. They are a cool way to take the load off your eyes sometimes and just immerse yourself in the story. Some books are really strong in voice acting.

 
 
 

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