Memoirs (Magill's Literary Annual 1977)
Is Tennessee Williams’ Memoirs an important contribution to the art of autobiography—one of the most interesting but least artful genres in the history of world literature—or is it simply another readable account of a life? The answer lies somewhere between. The uncannily conversational phrasing and tone of its style, with ingratiating, self-conscious, direct comment to the reader, and its deliberate anti-chronological structure, set Williams’ memoirs off artistically among a few notable American autobiographies of recent decades. But the style, the structure, and the elements of Williams’ life and times do not cohere effectively enough to make the book a work of art. Williams is not an important poet, and, while his short stories are almost as unusual and distinctive as Dylan Thomas’, he is not a major contributor to the genre. But his plays are the work of a highly gifted artist. His few comments on his own plays and on writing in general suggest that he is a natural writer, a Dionysian who writes out of personal torments transformed into charged theatrical images. In his Memoirs, the Williams we have known sublimated, transmuted through imagined characters, mostly female, speaks directly to us, artlessly. The achievement is both more than we have come to expect from autobiographies, even those by imaginative writers, and less than we might have hoped from a man so deeply involved in theater for more than four decades.
(The entire section is 3032 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1977)
America. CXXXIV, January 10, 1976, p. 11.
National Review. XXVIII, April 16, 1976, p. 405.
New Leader. LIX, March 29, 1976, p. 18.
New Republic. CLXXIII, December 27, 1975, p. 31.
Spectator. CCXXXVII, November 20, 1976, p. 19.
Virginia Quarterly Review. LII, Spring, 1976, p. 42.
Yale Review. LXV, June, 1976, p. 587.
(The entire section is 34 words.)