In this unique and engaging collection, twelve essays celebrate the legacy of one of America's most important playwrights and investigate Williams's enduring effect on America's cultural, theatrical, and literary heritage.
Like Faulkner before him, Tennessee Williams gave universal appeal to southern characters and settings. His major plays, from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Glass Menagerie to A Streetcar Named Desire and Night of the Iguana, continue to capture America's popular imagination, a significant legacy. Though he died in 1983, only recently have Williams's papers become available to the public, bringing to light a number of intriguing discoveries—letters, drafts, and several unpublished and unproduced plays. These recent developments make a reassessment of Williams's life and work both timely and needed.
The essays in this collection originated as presentations at the 27th annual Alabama Symposium on English and American Literature at The University of Alabama in 1999. The book addresses a wide range of topics, among them the influence of popular culture on Williams's plays, and, in turn, his influence on popular culture; his relationship to Hollywood and his struggles with censorship, Hollywood standards, and the competing vision of directors such as Elia Kazan; his depictions of gender and sexuality; and issues raised by recently discovered plays.
Anyone interested in American literature and drama will find this collection of fresh, accessible essays a rewarding perspective on the life, work, and legacy of one of the bright stars of American theatre.
Ralph F. Vosswas a high school junior in Plainville, Kansas in mid-November of 1959 when four members of the Herbert Clutter family were murdered in Holcomb, Kansas, by “four shotgun blasts that, all told, ended six human lives,” an unimaginable horror in a quiet farm community during the Eisenhower years. No one in Kansas or elsewhere could then have foreseen the emergence of Capote’s book–which has never gone out of print, has twice been made into a major motion picture, remainsrequired reading in criminology, American Studies, sociology, and English classes, and has been the source of two recent biographical films.
Voss examines Capote and In Cold Blood from many perspectives, not only as the crowning achievement of Capote’s career, but also as a story in itself, focusing on Capote’s artfully composed text, his extravagant claims for it as reportage, and its larger status in American popular culture.
Voss argues that Capote’s publication of In Cold Blood in 1966 forever transcended his reputation as a first-rate stylist but second-rate writer of “Southern gothic” fiction; that In Cold Blood actually is a gothic novel, a sophisticated culmination of Capote’s artistic development and interest in lurid regionalism, but one that nonetheless eclipsed him both personally and artistically. He also explores Capote’s famous claim that he created a genre called the “non-fiction novel,” and its status as a foundational work of “true crime” writing as practiced by authors ranging from Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer to James Ellroy, Joe McGinniss, and John Berendt.
Voss also examines Capote’s artful manipulation of the story’s facts and circumstances: his masking of crucial homoerotic elements to enhance its marketability; his need for the killers to remain alive long enough to get the story, and then his need for them to die so that he could complete it; and Capote’s style, his shaping of the narrative, and his selection of details–why it served him to include this and not that, and the effects of such choices—all despite confident declarations that “every word is true.”
Though it’s been nearly 50 years since the Clutter murders and far more gruesome crimes have been documented, In Cold Blood continues to resonate deeply in popular culture. Beyond questions of artistic selection and claims of truth, beyond questions about capital punishment and Capote’s own post-publication dissolution, In Cold Blood’s ongoing relevance stems, argues Voss, from its unmatched role as a touchstone for enduring issues of truth, exploitation, victimization, and the power of narrative.
Readers are well acquainted with Truman Capote’s meteoric rise to fame and his metamorphosis from literary enfant terrible to literary genius, celebrity author, and dispenser of venomously comic witticisms. It is also well-known that he spent his formative years in the south Alabama hamlet of Monroeville, and that he was abandoned there by his mother to be cared for and then to care for elderly relatives. Yet details of those years have remained sketchy and vague.
In Monroeville young Capote formed significant bonds and played childhood games with his cousin, Jennings Faulk Carter, and next door neighbor, Nelle Harper Lee, author of "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Go Set a Watchman." Through the tales told by Carter and spun into a fascinating and revealing narrative by Marianne M. Moates readers discover in Truman Capote's Southern Years the lively imagination and the early tragedies of a brilliant child.
A new foreword by Ralph F. Voss underscores the enduring relevance of Truman Capote’s work and the influence his Alabama childhood had on his work.