A True Story of Our Time

  • Michael Paller

Abstract

Williams had thought about entering analysis as early as 1954, when he was working on Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He asked Cheryl Crawford for a referral, but if she gave him the names of any therapists, he never fol-lowed up. The fact that he was feeling sufficient psychic pressure to ask for help as he’d begun working on the play is significant in itself for what it says about his anxieties concerning the work’s materials; that he put off such help is also significant. Perhaps he thought he could overcome any anxiety through writing; perhaps he was afraid of what he might discover about his subject matter should he probe it directly, without the intervening mask of imagination and symbol. By the beginning of January 1957, however, as preparations for the Broadway production of Orpheus Descending were getting underway, he wrote Sandy Campbell, Donald Windham’s lover, that he planned to start psychoanalysis as soon as he returned to New York from Key West, at the end of the month. But rehearsals for Orpheus may have interfered. It was not until after the twin disasters of poor reviews of Orpheus Descending in the daily papers of March 22, and his father’s death five days later, that Williams went for the help he believed psychiatry could offer.1

Keywords

Sugar Depression Steam Dine Reso 

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Notes

  1. 4.
    Nancy M. Tischler, Tennessee Williams: Rebellious Puritan (New York: Citadel Press, 1961), 246; qtd. in Devlin, 51; Williams, Memoirs, 169; Tischler, 247; Spoto, 239.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Tennessee Williams, “The Man in the Overstuffed Chair,” in Tennessee Williams: Collected Stories (New York: New Directions, 1985), xv-xvi.Google Scholar
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    Qtd. in Richard A. Isay, Being Homosexual: Gay Men and Their Development (New York: Avon, 1989), 6.Google Scholar
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    Richard A. Isay, Becoming Gay: The Journey to Self-Acceptance (New York: Henry Holt, 1996), 20.Google Scholar
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    Tennessee Williams, And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens in Political Stages: Plays That Shaped a Century, Emily Mann and David Roessel, eds. (New York: Applause, 2002), 394. Subsequent quotations are noted in the text. Although the editors write that the play takes place either between 1939 and 1941, or between 1945 and 1947, it is clear from the text that it is set at the time when Williams wrote it, most likely 1957. References to big televisions and hifis suggest that the editors’ dates are too early, as does the chronology of Candy’s relationship with Sidney: It began 18 years previous to the play “in the war years …” (395). If the play takes place in 1957, then 18 years earlier would be 1939—not quite the war years for America, but certainly for Europe.Google Scholar
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    Arthur Gelb, “Williams Explains His Move Off Broadway,” New York Times, December 16, 1958; “Williams, “Web of Violence” “Of the Deep South”Google Scholar
  21. Elliot Norton, “Tennessee Williams Goes Ghastly in New Play,” Boston Daily Record, February 26, 1958.Google Scholar

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© Michael Paller 2005

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  • Michael Paller

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