Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Winter reading sorted

Two new books have just arrived, comprising over 1,200 pages of what should be enjoyable reads with lots of gossip about those two titans of 20th Century literature and drama: Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal.

The Tennessee tome is by John Lahr, who wrote that enduring biography of Joe Orton PRICK UP YOUR EARS, so he is on familiar ground with the life of Tennessee titled MAD PILGRIMAGE OF THE FLESH, now in paperback and 784 pages.  The blurb states:
Tracing Williams's turbulent moral and psychological shifts, acclaimed theatre critic John Lahr sheds new light on the man and his work, as well as the America his plays helped to define. Williams created characters so large that they have become part of American folklore: Blanche, Stanley, Big Daddy, Brick, Amanda and Laura transcend their stories, haunting us with their fierce, flawed lives. Similarly, Williams himself swung high and low in his single-minded pursuit of greatness. Lahr shows how Williams's late-blooming homosexual rebellion, his struggle against madness, his grief-struck relationships with his combustible father, prim and pious mother and 'mad' sister Rose, victim to one of the first lobotomies in America, became central themes in his drama. Tennessee's own MEMOIRS were an enjoyable read, so this should continue where he left off.

Then there is Gore - a longtime friend of Tennessee's - they were both young and in Rome in that "Golden Age" after the war in 1948 ... Gore died in 2012 and his later years cannot have been pleasant, confined to a wheelchair and back in America after his decades in Italy and in declining health and drinking rather too much. See Vidal label for my obituary on this titan of American literature who dominated the stage of American politics and letters for so long. It seemed nobody loved Gore as much as he loved himself and was a man of vast contradictions and pretensions, an intellectual and a workhorse - all those novels, essays, appearing on TV at every opportunity - a tireless sexual adventurer and maybe genius. As the blurb states, his houses were grand, his feuds legendary (with Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, Bobby Kennedy), his friendships with the Newmans (Paul and Joanne), JFK, Princess Margaret, Nureyev - are all covered here too, as well as his stints in Hollywood. Author Jay Parini got to know Vidal and it is all here - in 450 pages. Love the title: one of Gore's waspish comments: EVERY TIME A FRIEND SUCCEEDS SOMETHING INSIDE OF ME DIES. I also like his "It is not enough to succeed, others must fail". Gore too wrote two autobiographies, but this should be an unbiased look at that amazing life. There are two pages on Tennessee and his works at the Tennessee label. 

Two hefty tomes then, with lots of juicy gossip, for those long winter nights by the fire ...


  1. Yes, I plan to read these as well. Did you get the hardback editions or the paperbacks?

  2. The Tennessee is a chunky paperback, but the Gore is a new hardback.