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An extraordinary book; one that almost magically makes clear how Tennessee Williams wrote; how he came to his visions of Amanda Wingfield, his Blanche DuBois, Stella Kowalski, Alma Winemiller, Lady Torrance, and the other characters of his plays that transformed the American theater of the mid-twentieth century; a book that does, from the inside, the almost impossible—reveAn extraordinary book; one that almost magically makes clear how Tennessee Williams wrote; how he came to his visions of Amanda Wingfield, his Blanche DuBois, Stella Kowalski, Alma Winemiller, Lady Torrance, and the other characters of his plays that transformed the American theater of the mid-twentieth century; a book that does, from the inside, the almost impossible—revealing the heart and soul of artistic inspiration and the unwitting collaboration between playwright and actress, playwright and director.At a moment in the life of Tennessee Williams when he felt he had been relegated to a “lower artery of the theatrical heart,” when critics were proclaiming that his work had been overrated, he summoned to New Orleans a hopeful twenty-year-old writer, James Grissom, who had written an unsolicited letter to the great playwright asking for advice. After a long, intense conversation, Williams sent Grissom on a journey on the playwright’s behalf to find out if he, Tennessee Williams, or his work, had mattered to those who had so deeply mattered to him, those who had led him to what he called the blank page, “the pale judgment.” Among the more than seventy giants of American theater and film Grissom sought out, chief among them the women who came to Williams out of the fog: Lillian Gish, tiny and alabaster white, with enormous, lovely, empty eyes (“When I first imagined a woman at the center of my fantasia, I . . . saw the pure and buoyant face of Lillian Gish. . . . [She] was the escort who brought me to Blanche”) . . . Maureen Stapleton, his Serafina of The Rose Tattoo, a shy, fat little girl from Troy, New York, who grew up with abandoned women and sad hopes and whose job it was to cheer everyone up, goad them into going to the movies, urge them to bake a cake and have a party.  (“Tennessee and I truly loved each other,” said Stapleton, “we were bound by our love of the theater and movies and movie stars and comedy. And we were bound to each other particularly by our mothers: the way they raised us; the things they could never say . . . The dreaming nature, most of all”) . . . Jessica Tandy (“The moment I read [Portrait of a Madonna],” said Tandy, “my life began. I was, for the first time . . . unafraid to be ruthless in order to get something I wanted”) . . . Kim Stanley . . . Bette Davis . . . Katharine Hepburn . . . Jo Van Fleet . . . Rosemary Harris . . . Eva Le Gallienne (“She was a stone against which I could rub my talent and feel that it became sharper”) . . . Julie Harris . . . Geraldine Page (“A titanic talent”) . . . And the men who mattered and helped with his creations, including Elia Kazan, José Quintero, Marlon Brando, John Gielgud . . . James Grissom’s Follies of God is a revelation, a book that moves and inspires and uncannily catches that illusive “dreaming nature.”...

Title : Follies of God: Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780307265692
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 416 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Follies of God: Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog Reviews

  • Janet
    2019-02-27 17:48

    A fascinating book about Tennessee Williams that itself could have been a play. A young boy writes a letter to a great writer asking for advice about how he could become a writer too. Instead of getting a letter in return, he is invited from his home in Baton Rouge to New Orleans to meet the writer in person--for a purpose, and not the purpose you'd think. The playwright is having a prolonged crisis of faith in himself and his work, his ability to continue working after his great plays are behind him, and wants the boy to contact the women who formed the core of this body of work, whose faces were the faces that originally embodied those fictional women, and to ask them if his work mattered.The boy learns how Williams created, how he was accustomed to creating his work. He imagined a proscenium stage in his mind. Then a fog or smoke rolled out onto it--I'd never heard the creative matrix described as a fog before--and then a woman emerged from the fog, and began to speak. That woman changed with each play, but the book actually tells us who that original face belonged to. I learned, for example, that his vision of Blanche DuBois was Lillian Gish, who was originally cast but was so uninterior an actress it was a disaster. The boy not only talks to Gish, butalso interviews the great actress who eventually did bring Blanche duBois to the stage--Jessica Tandy. Grissom interviews Elia Kazan, and Jose Quintero, and we see that a great director does for a playwright what a great editor does for a writer. Challenges him or her. Forces him or her to defend what he or she has done. Forces you to be better than you can ever imagine being. And that a bad director or an indifferent one doesn't help clarify, but simply throws it out there as is.The book is a multi voiced conversation with and about Williams,theater, creativity, the world of the theater in a certain time and place, and the way Williams' art made its way onto the stage. All the people who made it possible, or corrupted it, changed it, amplified it, and all the women who embodied his vision, or tried and failed. Williams is a voluble subject, and we get his opinion of everything and everyone, and realize that he still was the writer he always was. But he didn't value it anymore, he couldn't feel it. He wanted it the way it used to be--the fog, and then the woman. If it didn't happen that way, he could still write short stories, but he didn't feel them, he didn't take pride in them--creative acts that could have sustained him in a new phase of his career instead just seemed like pale shadows of what he used to be able to do. He talks about other playwrights such as Inge (they were close but Williams was quite rivalrous), Albee, Guare, Odets... And thus it's also--even mainly--a book about the creative act, what went into the making of these plays, exploring the matrix that is the writer himself. But most people will read this for the interviews with his actresses. Some are Williams' very close friends and saviors (Maureen Stapleton especially), others more stringently professional (the great Geraldine Page--oh, this is the best part of the book, she was so talented that ALL the other actresses were scared of her. She was the only one of the actresses who didn't want to know what other ones Grissom had interviewed or what they'd said about her). I know I will read this section again and again. The world of the stage is mysterious to me, as there is no record but memory. It;s so interesting to get a literary picture of Kim Stanley, Jessica Tandy, Laurette Taylor and so on...and insights into figures of the theater world, like Lee Strasberg and the Actor's Studio. Loved the Brando interview--he's so insightful--and the Katherine Hepburn... and insights into other actors whose work I'd seen but not known much about--like Jo Van Fleet, who famously played the cold, cruel brothel-owner mother in the James Dean version of East of Eden, the perfect alignment of role and personality.I can just see the note-taking boy Grissom had been, that he was able to grab those night-long rants of Williams in New Orleans on the fly and preserve for us this man in all his brilliance and largely self-orchestrated agony. The book brings up questions about writer's block and how to continue to be an artist over time, when the applause dies down but the talent is still there. It's a caution against piling up too many "necessary rituals" before writing, because then the rituals themselves become obsessional, rather than helping the writer move into the work. So this is more of a novelistic portrait of a writer and his collaborators and influences and creative needs, his later life heartaches and solaces, a confrontation with what is it to be an artist and then a later-life artist, and a portrait of the theater as well. Eccentric and enlivening. "Tenn believed that writers, all artists, had several homes. There was the biological place of birth; the home in which one grew up, bore witness, fell apart. There was also the place where the 'epiphanies' began --a school, a church, perhaps a bed. Rockets were launched and an identity began to be set. There was the physical location where a writer sat each day and scribbled and hunted and pecked and dreamed and drank and cursed his way into a story or play or novel. Most importantly however, there was the emotional, invisible, self-invented place where work began -- what Tenn called his 'mental theater,' a cerebral proscenium stage upon which his characters walked and stumbled and remained locked forever in his memory, ready, he felt, to be called into action and help him again.'I've got to get home.'"

  • Sketchbook
    2019-02-19 12:14

    Why doesn't author give Source-Notes?Lillian Gish as Blanche DuBois in "Streetcar" ? Author Grissom details how he met Gish and learned from her and, earlier, from Tenn (or 10) that the playwright wrote this modern classic with Gish in mind. He quotes Kazan, "Blanche was as alien to Gish as a Martian." Gish, who didnt even like to talk about sex, claimed she had no desires orneeds.(The John Lahr bio has no mention of this Gish story anywhere. Lahr mentions two "disappointed readings w Margaret Sullavan," which I'd read elsewhere, long ago.) So, where are we?Grissom, b Baton Rouge, La, wrote a fan letter to 10 that resulted in his spending several days w the playwright in New Orleans in 1982, a year before his death. Grissom says he was 20. The two got on like honey bees, although 10 was in despair and trying to keep all bitterness at bay. They walked around the town, munched, drank, snorted some cocaine, and so on (we never know where Grissom was staying unless my eyes blurred that fact), and 10 cited nasty quotes from theatre critics who said his work was overrated -- had never mattered. He charged the author to find "witnesses," from names he'd given, who would bear witnessthat he did matter. "These people have mattered to me, and they keep me going."Grissom accepted the assignment, though he didnt get started until some years later.Thus begins an original and oddly moving "story" of, most especially, the actresses in 10's life who played Blanche, Flora, Maggie, Laura, Amanda, Serafina, Alma, etc. -- all memorable "characters" who stepped out of the fog and into his imagination. The book's structure is uniquely personal and Grissom's writing is often dazzling. Unlike the Lahr bio, there's only a sniff of sex; Grissom produces a tribute to the greatest American playwright, along w a provocative glimpse at theater talents like Kazan, Brando, Lee Strasberg, William Inge and John Gielgud.10 Williams, particularly, talks a blue streak : "It won't be easy to understand people, ever, but our lives require us to keep trying. ~ To be happy is to be forever out of time's grasp. ~ I fear never experiencing love or appreciation or affection. ~ You find yourself not by setting across new lands but by restoring yourself to your young self, eyes open, ready to receive. ~ We lie in order to live, and in time, our lives become the lie. ~ We are not created by God; our God is created byus." 10 on Marian Seldes, who initially connected Grissom to the players : She got lost in a childhood mirror. The stage is her narcotic. ~~ On Tallulah : She could upstage a crucifixion. ~~ On Kate Hepburn : She cannot enter a room quietly or make a statement that doesn't have within it a tiny but lethal explosion of truth. ~~ And the players themselves talk.Maureen Stapleton on The Method : I dont think we need to know why we do things onstage. ~~ Kazan : Lee Strasberg fed on the weakest of egos. ~~ Eva Le Gallienne : Tennessee was a great writer, but he was a flawed man. Emulate the writer, not the man.Grissom did not use a tape recorder, he explains. His quotes, many of them running for several pages, resulted from phone calls, but most came from notes sent to him by 10 or what he scribbled down in face-to-face conversations. As he further explains. Herein a serious problem : writers use tape recorders for accuracy and ease; taking down 1000s of words in your own shorthand is fairly impossible because you oft cannot decipher what's before you. The John Lahr bio has 104 pages of Source Notes that establish who said what and where and when. James Grissom has O.All the key witnesses in his book are dead. He tells us that he moved to NYC in 1989 and began his search to bear witness. Yet he records that Geraldine Page "smiled softly at me"... and observed, "Tennessee dreamed too much." Page died in 1987, but he later says he met her earlier on a trip to NYC. Why didn't his editor insist on dated Sources? This is an unfortunate flaw, hm, Knopf?

  • Robert Samuels
    2019-03-11 19:08

    I was wholly captivated by this book. I've been following the writer, James Grissom, for about three years through his blog, and I couldn't see how the book would live up to my expectations, but it did. I love the story of this kid writing to the great playwright Tennessee Williams and then being given an assignment, when what he wanted was advice--and, I think, assurance that a life in the theater was worthwhile. The insight from Williams is remarkable, but I love the chapters on Maureen Stapleton, Jessica Tandy, Kim Stanley, Katharine Hepburn, Marian Seldes, and Jo Van Fleet. The conclusion of the book is devastating. I recently went to a reading of the book, and there in the audience were people who have been a part of this journey with Grissom for thirty years, and it was amazing to see it all come together. I highly recommend this book.

  • Jiaran Wang
    2019-02-22 19:00

    When I see the news reporting tragedy, I pray for more love & laughter all around. "The world is violent and mercurial - it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love - love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love."

  • David
    2019-03-14 12:04

    I had thought it might have been enough to have read TW's memoirs and John Lahr's bio of him - but the particular angle of Grissom's book was ultimately too inviting to pass up. ~the angle, if not the premise. In the early '80s, shortly before he left this Earth, Williams answered a letter from the-then-very-young James Grissom and they met. Upon meeting, TW gave Grissom a task: to search out the women who had been closest to him in his creative life...to discover if his life had mattered (and, if so, why). An odd request, to say the least, and a potentially off-putting one for the reader of 'Follies of God'. ~except that, over about three decades, Grissom does find a fair number of these women (these actors)...and that's what makes the book compelling and worthwhile. Once beyond the bonding period between TW and Grissom, 'Follies of God' becomes an invaluable read for those interested in TW's plays and the lives of those who brought his most enduring creations to life. You would not normally find some of these women captured in their own words for posterity (people like Maureen Stapleton, Geraldine Page, Frances Sternhagen, Kim Hunter, Lillian Gish, Jessica Tandy, Marian Seldes, Mildred Natwick, etc.). Most of them did not write their own memoirs, as Katherine Hepburn (also interviewed) did. The book actually has much more to do with these women and their own philosophies of life in general. (Not all of those philosophies are upbeat or generally positive: the lives of Jo Van Fleet, Rachel Roberts and Kim Stanley are presented very much 'warts and all'.) If the women interviewed generally agree on anything it's that TW mystified them. Almost as a group, they don't understand why he was so hard on himself, on life, and on his life in the theater (though, of course, they all admit that the life of the theater is a tough one if you approach it without some form of 'armor'). But, of course, that is why TW sought women like these out in the first place - to hold him up with what he perceived as their strength. (~which, of course, is very doable when writer and actors are actually working on a production...but, aside from that, one is on one's own more or less.) As also shown in Lahr's thorough bio, TW on his own was an enigma: he didn't particularly want to be close to people, yet he seemed to fiercely and unrealistically need to be close to certain people. This was a need born in his damaging childhood and TW admits as much. But his descriptions of the details of that need unfortunately tend to come off as just so much blather. For example, neither G. Page or K. Hepburn could understand why TW concerned himself with things that made him like a dog chasing his tail...when his life could have been much more about the actual work to which he had supposedly devoted himself. Early on, TW mentions that his female characters would come to him as if through fog. That makes perfect sense since he seemed to spend his life surrounded by a complex fog that he developed and embraced. It seems he often made things much more complicated than they needed to be. (Some of the women interviewed - sensing the value of a more practical nature - are saddened by that.)As for Grissom, he admirably accomplishes what he set out to do: to be TW's witness as he looked back at what meant most to him. [There is also a very satisfying overview of the personal and professional relationship between TW and William Inge.] Those who care deeply about this particular 'chapter' of the theater world will find much to savor.

  • Jamie
    2019-03-01 19:54

    Anyone who loves, reveres and is devoted to Tennessee Williams and his work must read this book. Anyone who loves, reveres and is devoted to the theatre must read this book. Anyone who loves, reveres and is devoted to stellar writing must read this book. James Grissom has given us the gift of Tennessee Williams speaking candidly, poetically and delusionaly about himself and his work--specifically the women, types of women and spectacular actresses who inspired and interpreted his work. While painting a revealing portrait of Williams in his last years, Grissom creates an intimate biography that is as revealing about the man and his work as it is about writing, the theatre and acting. Grissom also gives us cameo portraits of the actresses (Geraldine Page, Jessica Tandy, Maureen Stapleton, to name but a few) to whom Williams dispatched Grissom for revelations and insights into Williams and his work. "Follies of God" is packed with the wit, humor and tragedy of Williams in his own words, as well as revelations, dishy gossip, and an engrossing journey into a world long gone. Be sure to wear your sunglasses. You'll need to protect your eyes from the sparkling dazzle of Grissom's prose. I can't wait for his next book. I hear it's about Marlon Brando.

  • Lane Coleman
    2019-03-04 17:11

    What an exquisite and touching book this was. I think I thought it would be a biography of Williams, and it is--in a way. But it is a biography told through the eyes of those with whom he worked, whom he loved, and who offer their thoughts on this man who felt he no longer mattered. James Grissom manages to write with the innocence he must have had when he was twenty and the prose slowly builds in maturity and understanding. In addition to shedding light on the creative processes of Williams and many of the greatest actresses of our time, this is a remarkably well-written book.

  • Kevin Daly
    2019-03-02 12:09

    The best theatre-related book I've read since 'Everything Was Possible.' Essential.

  • Susan
    2019-03-18 13:52

    This is an excellent read for anyone interested in theater. James Grissom did a brilliant job in allowing us to see the real Tennessee Williams. Theater is ART, it allows us to see inside our sometimes hidden secrets or confusion about life through an insightful play. Actors attempt to take a playwrights work, this book, Tenn's work, and breath life into it on the stage for the audiences to experience a few truths. But the enlightenment for me, is how much effort, sometimes outright agony,waiting for a woman to come out of the fog , sweat, sleepless dream sharing, drugs and alcohol go into one play. Being born in 1945, I recognized many of the women in this book that influenced Tenn. In fact, one afternoon, in mid book, I took a break from reading . Turned on TCM, and there was 'A Streetcar Named Desire', Vivian Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, and Karl Maldon. 1951.I took that as a sign. I saw the movie years ago, but at my current age and this book, I saw , understood and felt so much more. Also , I was watching 'Theater Talk' which James Grissom happened to be on 3/13/16. I wrote a note to get this book. It would be great, I think, it this valuable read is also on CD version so we can listen...just like old radio, oui. This book is a proud book on my shelf that I shall refer to often and is the best read of this year. Bravo James Grissom!

  • Joan
    2019-03-18 18:46

    This is a very interesting view of Tennessee Williams and the sources of his creative inspiration. It includes reminiscences and conversations with some of the great actresses, actors and writers of his time. This a peek behind the curtain that will inform your enjoyment of much of the stage work done in America from roughly the 40's, 50's and 60's.

  • Steve Carter
    2019-03-16 13:47

    Follies of God: Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fogby James GrissomThe book entered my awareness through a “Like” page on Facebook. A Follies of God “Like” page was being “Liked” by some of my Facebook friends, or maybe the posts were “sponsored”, but I don’t think so. The content of the posts were intriguing quotes from Tennessee Williams, or people, primarily women, with whom he worked. These were accompanied by photos of these people. I can’t say I have a lot of interest of fan chatter, gossip about famous people, figures of mid-20th Century theater/films, but what I was seeing in the Follies of God posts were way beyond fan stuff. They were statements about life, work, and “What’s it all about?” by people who had, at least for a season or two, ascended to the peak in their field. Of particular interest at the time were quotes from Marlon Brando. I didn’t know that much about him, other than the acting, the admirable advocation of the cause of the American Indian, and the horrible family tragedies that surrounded him in later years. I had a notion that he was an off beat, but more or less a big dumb pretty thing, who was able to exhibit emotions while acting. The Brando in the Follies of God posts was a very thoughtful, deeply philosophical man with a lot so say about life in general, our human predicament, a comrade in bohemian/rebel spirit.. So I “Liked” “Followed” and continues to enjoy these posts not really knowing what the project was all about. I can’t say, even though I’m an actor, that I’m a big movie fan. And being essentially a displaced working class rube, “The Theater” has hardly been on my radar at all. I had only recently developed an interest in Williams. The first encounter was at an event called Tenn 99 which marked the 99th year since his birth. In a theater in Westbeth in NYC, during an afternoon, at this free event I was exposed to readings of the full length A Rose Tattoo as well as two or three one act plays. I bit. I was later hooked by a production of In a Bar in a Tokyo Hotel. This production by Regina Bartkoff and Charles Schick, was the best Williams production I have seen and I was very moved and intellectually stimulated by this marvelous play. That night I became a Williams fan. This year has marked the publication of two major books having to do with Williams. The first was john Lahr's biography Tennessee Williams; The Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh. While waiting for this popular book to become available from the library, and after reading Regina Bartkoff's mixed review, I decided to bide my time with Memoirs by Williams himself. Memoirs is an excellent read, very amusing. It has the feeling of hanging out with Tenn over drinks and multiple lines of coke (not that I know what that it like, but can imagine). It has lots of sex talk which old Tenn, in his 60s at the time, justifies by saying that he "came out" late in life. Then the John Lahr arrived for me at the library. It was informative but in the end I had the feeling that Lahr chose a plot, a story line, and told it. The story in essence being that in the end, what happened to Tennessee, was that he felt guilty about exploiting his family history, the sad brutally lobotomized sister Rose, and most oddly, himself, to create his great works.Enter James Grissiom's Follies of God. Before getting the book, based on the posts on the Facebook "like" page, I had imagined it would be a series of quotes from the famous contemporaries of Williams all compiled by some 80 year old guy who knew them all somehow and was at last sharing it all. Frankly, that sounded a bit dull to me. It turns out that Grissiom's experience is a big part of the book. He is a character in the book and as a young fan of Williams, contacted the old man in his final years and was assigned to the task of discovering why Williams mattered to the people he had worked with, mostly the women he admired and wished to gain insight, wisdom, from. He sets Grissiom on a 30 year journey to meet and talk to these women providing him with methods of introduction to these oft times very famous and accomplished actors. He tells Grissiom what he thinks of each which of course provides him with tantalizing bait. What performer would not want to know, in their later years, what the great playwright thought of them and their work? Grissiom also provides us with an portrait of Williams, with little or no embellishment of psychological diagnosis. He simply reports what Williams says and does. I felt that, in comparison with Lahr's Williams, who he never met, I was getting a clear, more realistic view of the subject. While both Lahr's and Grissiom's Tennessee is disillusioned and this is connected to the loss of writing power and the fine art, success, and stature that emerged from it. the cause of this decline, rather than Lahr's guilt at the exploitation of the family, my impression of Grissiom's Williams is more an artist lost in addiction caused by a combination of being a child seeking comfort and shelter from the stressful craziness of his family, first in huddling in his youthful bed escaping into radio dramas, maturing to create his own fantastic world to theatrical naturalism, all the whole, aiding in his escape is first alcohol and later, with the rich reward of commercial success, many other drugs that while also used to bring on The Fog from which his women characters emerged also had the debilitating side effect on Tenn, losing his own way becoming more and more a character lost to the fog himself. What I got from the book was a Tennessee Williams who not only used drugs as an escape from current or remembered stress, normal in, I would say, most addicts, but also used them as a tool to an altered consciousness space from which he wrote. This can sometimes work quite well for a time, even perhaps years, but then Mephistopheles demands his due. Lahr did not, as I recall even mention cocaine, yet Grissiom reports witnessing many trips to the loo. I'm not suggesting that drugs made the man, but clearly played a part in the unmaking. The bulk of the book is involved with the marvelous talks with the women, the surrogate mothers and lovers off Williams. I say lovers because he so clearly was seeking women's love and acceptance confirmation that he "mattered". And there is a certain passage in the book where Williams compares women’s and man’s love. Man’s loved is judged as being a very surface matter, something that evaporated if wrinkles appeared, or if the suit was not neatly pressed. I couldn’t help but wonder if Williams was looking at himself in this harsh portrayal of man’s ability to love.Of the woman he loved and admired, and sent James Grissiom to speak with, some are brilliant, some angry, bitter, and some, like Tenn, are also addicted to mood altering substances, but each, offers the reader a lesson in life, how to live it, and perhaps the paths to be avoided, if that is even possible, if there is really anyway to alter our paths set by where, with whom, we originate. A couple of chapters are devoted to Tennessee's relationship with William Inge. As an Inge fan, I was fascinated by this section. Once again, one can read Lahr's book and put it down with no awareness of a long standing sexual relationship between these two major 20th Century playwrights. An omission of major proportions.I think Follies if God is a great, enriching read, not matter one's level of interest in things theatrical.

  • Dave Cotton
    2019-03-12 15:00

    Interesting. I wonder about the veracity of some of the accounts...

  • O'Snap
    2019-03-05 15:10

    Beautifully written fantasy fiction that for no logical reason has been accepted as fact. James Grissom states from the start that no record remains of his alleged five days of talks with Tennessee Williams — conveniently mere months before Williams' death — yet quotes florid poetic ramblings word for word more than 30 years later as if channelling Williams himself. ("I did not take a tape recorder," Grissom points out — conveniently and nonsensically — "because I was not a journalist ... I wrote everything down [in notebooks] long since deteriorated, their staples fallen away..." — as if he had taken notes in 1882, not 1982. Absurd.) Grissom claims to have been summoned by Williams in late 1982 after writing to the playwright, at the age of 20, with a photograph and a request for writing advice. (Grissom's IMDb bio lists his birth date as Halloween 1966 — 4 years younger than this book's claim — online author photos would suggest that both of those dates are generous fantasies. IMDb also lists several of his "alternate names," including "Algonquin Camembert" and "Siegen Lane," the latter a street in his native Baton Rouge.) Yet the tall tale Grissom spins here is nonetheless engrossing, as are his very interesting theories, research, analyses, and actor portraits (even though the vast majority of interview subjects are now deceased and their quotes as unverifiable as those of Williams). It's a beautifully written book — minus one shred of factual veracity (such as a photo of the author with any of his subjects). Fact, fiction, fantasy, or fraud — still a fascinating read, on a variety of levels.

  • Rui
    2019-03-03 12:46

    Excelent book! I had a feeling I would enjoy it. I grew up with images of Tennessee Williams plays through the film adaptations. "A Streetcar named Desire", "Suddenly Last Summer", "Summer and Smoke", "Cat on a Hot tin roof", "Sweet Bird of Youth" were landmarks as well as the acting of Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Geraldine Page. What I found most interesting was that the book was mostly about the plays, the theater and the actresses inspiring the author, some of which acted the parts in theater productions, rather than the movies.It is irrelevant if it is really the voice of Tenessee in the book. The important thing is that it captures a time and reality that is becoming distant. There is poetry in this book and a feeling of nostalgia that impresses itself on the reader.And there are those other voices from actreses like Lillian Gish or Maureen Stapleton or Katherine Hepburn whose personalities are so different yet matching their public images. I believe James Grissom wrote a different book that could become easily a reference in the memoir genre

  • Mark
    2019-03-11 12:56

    A travel memoir and mini bios all in one. You get a sense of the real Tennessee here -- the good, the bad and the ugly. Completely authentic and compelling. Really great read for TW fans and American theater history buffs.

  • Melissa
    2019-03-08 12:50

    An essential read for anyone who loves theater, acting, words!

  • Susan
    2019-03-20 19:49

    Fascinating!inspires me to seek out the work of many of these influential actresses.

  • Sandra Helen
    2019-03-14 17:45

    Excellent addition to other biographies of Mr. Williams.

  • False
    2019-03-12 18:55

    One of the better books I've read this year, and a unique take on Williams in terms of the women in his life and the role(s) they played in his work.

  • David Sheward
    2019-02-23 19:10

    After reading several books on Tennessee Williams including many by men who encountered him during his later, drug-crazed years, I didn't think there could possibly be another angle with which to examine this tragic figure. James Grissom's combination memoir/essay/multi-biography finds the new way into Williams' mind by interviewing the women who influenced him. In the early 198s, Grissom, then a young student wrote the legendary dramatist a fan letter. This resulted in their meeting in New Orleans and Williams charging the young man with seeking out and speaking with the ladies of the theater the great man had worked with or witnessed on stage. Grissom was to carry messages from Williams and ask their responses. The playwright was going through difficult times (that's putting it mildly) and he wanted to know if he mattered to the women who mattered to him. Decades later, Grissom has completed his task and the result is a fascinating look into the shattered Williams psyche and work methods. We learn not only about women who served as inspiration such as Lillian Gish (the model for Blanche DuBois) and Ruth Chatterton but also role models for Williams' conduct of life. There were clear-headed acolytes of the dramatic arts such as Katharine Hepburn, Marian Seldes, Lois Smith, and Frances Sternhagen. whose no-nonsense approach to living he envied. But also psychological messes and brilliant actresses such as Kim Stanley, Jo Van Fleet and Barbara Baxley. Drinking buddies and surrogate mothers like Maureen Stapleton, admired practitioners like Mildred Natwick, dramaturgical advisors such as Stella Adler and Eva LaGalliene. I admired the examination of certain productions such as the 1973 revival of Streetcar with Rosemary Harris directed by her gay ex-husband Ellis Rabb and the two abortive, short-lived Broadway stagings of The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore. I was also taken by Williams' assessment of the careers of Seldes and Smith. He told Grissom that neither of them sought the approval of the fickle public, but only wanted to do honest and vital work onstage, as a result they led much happier lives than he did. Interesting, both Seldes and Smith came into their own late in their long careers, receiving awards, praise, and rewarding roles after toiling in the vineyards for decades. Grissom has received notoriety lately for praising Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign because she helped him with his insurance when she was a NY Senator. As result the fascistic GOP in Congress has investigated him on suspicion that Clinton paid him for his good words on national TV. Perhaps there is another book there.

  • Bob Manning
    2019-03-01 16:47

    When the author was in college, he met Tennessee Williams, who was in the waning career of his life. Williams, who had a lot of self doubt at the time, asks the author to locate and interview a lot of his old leading ladies and find out what they thought of him. The author does that over the next 20 years and then writes this book about what they told him.

  • KathyPetersen
    2019-03-01 12:03

    Read in conjunction with St. Louis' Tennessee Williams Festival, this book claims quite a lot for the influence of women in the life and work of Williams. Grissom makes such a good case that I cannot disagree. In addition, while he is obviously a fan, he does maintain a fairly objective distance from his fascinating subject.

  • Luann
    2019-02-23 15:49

    Enjoyed this immensely. Came to it after stumbling upon the Facebook page. But have to admit that something about this doesn't quite ring true. After a while all the voices sound the same. Still moments of soulfulness and love the people who inhabit these pages.

  • Vesna
    2019-03-14 20:09

    Wonderful am still reading and enjoying it.