Long-Lost Tennessee Williams Short Story Finally Published, 31 Years After Playwright's Death
Fans of Tennessee Williams, rejoice: A new story from the playwright has been uncovered and published in the spring edition of The Strand mystery magazine. Crazy Nights , Wiliams' semi-autobiographical story, is staged on a college campus in the 1930s, and focuses on students getting drunk at the end of the semester — either to celebrate graduating, or to drown their sorrows from flunking out (in the narrator's case, flunking out.)
The story's main character, Anna Jean, is thought to be inspired by Anna Jean O'Donnell, whom Williams dated at the University of Missouri. In the tale, Anna Jean shares an intimate gathering with the narrator — before leaving him for someone else.
Andrew Gulli, managing editor of The Strand, was researching Williams when he stumbled across the 14-page manuscript at the University of Texas. According to Gulli, this may be "the missing piece of the puzzle" of Williams' romantic relationships. In Williams' memoirs and notebooks, Gulli says Williams went into great detail about his love affairs, but made little mention of Jean.
Gulli told the Associated Press:
There is a theme of disappointment, the old 'mendacity theme' from 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He could show how beneath the cloak of respectability his characters had horrible insecurities and dark secrets. Williams was a master of showing the desperation and need humans have for companionship and was equally skilled at showing how relationships go sour and lead to cynicism.
The playright is best known for plays like The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire. Some of his work was thrust into the Hollywood spotlight and turned into popular movies, and many of his plays are still performed on stage.
After Williams' father pulled him out of the University of Missouri, furious that his girlfriend was also attending the same school — possibly the Anna Jean in Crazy Nights? — Williams took a job as a shoe company sales clerk, which he hated. He turned to his writing for pleasure, but suffered a nervous breakdown and went to Memphis to recover.
Once well again, he connected with several students at Washington University, who were studying poetry, and enrolled in the University of Iowa. Unfortunately, his later years were difficult and his work received poor reviews. Williams habitually used alcohol as a coping mechanism, which eventually led to his demise in 1983 in New York City.