Book Title/Author: Williams in an Hour by Michael Paller
Publisher/Year Published: In an Hour Books by Smith and Kraus, 2009.
How I got a hold of this book: I received this free copy in the mail from the publisher after being asked to review and coordinate a giveaway.
Why I read this book: I chose this particular playwright because I was curious to know more about Tennessee Williams and because a friend of mine, who is a Mizzou alum, said Williams was a Mizzou alum and I wanted to impress said friend (sad, I know). But he also wrote a play that I love, A Streetcar Named Desire.
Rating: 4.5 stars.
I knew next to nothing about Tennessee Williams when I started this book. I knew the titles of a couple of his plays. And I knew that he went to Mizzou. I was really excited about the prospect of learning more about this playwright.
This book definitely met my expectations.
The book begins with a timeline of major events in Williams's life, as well as world events that shaped him and his writing. Next is a list of his works and a list of contemporaries. The list of contemporaries includes other writers, as well as athletes, political figures, prominent businessmen, among other famous and important people. This part of the book, I think, helped put Williams into a larger context. It showed events and people that influenced him. I mean, who could have lived through World War II and not be affected by it?
The bulk of the book is a scholarly essay on Williams. It includes biographical information, such as his parents' names, where he went to school (while he did go to Mizzou, he did not actually get his degree from there), that sort of thing. But it also discusses, in a chronological order, his works and how they were affected by the world events. Basically, it shows what made his work relevant to and appreciated by the masses. This essay talks about authors who influenced Williams, themes in his work (such as the need to flee versus the urge to remain), and the way theatre changed during the course of his career. I think that the essay gives a very good, very detailed introduction to Williams's entire body of work, as well as giving a detailed biographical sketch.
The next section is comprised of dramatic moments from some of his major plays. I think that this section does a good job of supporting the claims made in the essay about his work and they give a feel for his writing style. The excerpts also give a little bit of a feel for how Williams evolved as a writer during his career. The last major section is a lengthy bibliography of scholarly and popular works on Williams. It lists the sources used in the essay and books to reference a variety of topics for further reading, such as biographies on Williams and books about American theatre.
I really liked this book. I think that it did an excellent job of teaching me a bit about Williams and his plays. I feel like I could discuss him intelligibly. However, I know that I need to read his plays to really be qualified to discuss him. This book helps place Williams in a larger context of world events and in the context of American theatre. The copy had good organization. It was written in a clear, concise manner. And the book was clean and well-made. (As a grad student, quality of print and construction has become a very important part of books; go figure)
I think it would be a good tool for students taking a course where they'll read Williams's plays or for people who are interested in the playwright.
As promised, we have a giveaway!
This Williams book is part of a series called Playwrights in an Hour. The publisher is allowing me to give away one of their books to a lucky reader. The series is broken into four time periods with the following playwrights:
Ancient Greek--Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripedes, Sophocles
Modern--Chekhov, Coward, Hansberry, Ibsen, Miller, Moliere, O'Neill, Schnitzler, Shaw, Strindberg, Wedekind, Wilde, Wilder, Williams
Contemporary--Albee, Ayckbourn, Beckett, Rebeck, Ruhl, Shepard, Stoppard, A. Wilson
Leave me a comment telling me which playwright you would want to receive. At 9:00pm (cst) on Saturday, December 25, I will randomly select one reader to receive a free copy of the playwright of their choice.
There will be a total of five playwright giveaways over the next several weeks...