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Notebooks Hardcover – January 30, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This magnificent tome is a treasure trove for Williams scholars and fans. Independent scholar Thornton not only tracked down Williams's early short stories and poems but often presents photo reproductions of the original manuscripts. A talented sleuth, Thornton cross-checks journal entries with letters Williams wrote to friends, offers minibiographies of people mentioned in the journals and has found photos of most of the cast of characters at the time they were in touch with Williams. Her detective work is fully one half of this massive book. (Williams's journal entries, from 1936 to 1958 and 1979 to 1981 run on the right-hand pages opposite Thornton's annotations.) As the playwright, according to Thornton, "modulated his tone and style to suit the recipient" of his voluminous correspondence, his journal reveals his authentic voice. These entries primarily showcase the budding artist who was plagued with insecurities, increasing drug dependency and an equally destructive addiction to celebrity, but his loyalty to his work remained so strong that he was still able to write The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Summer and Smoke, The Rose Tattoo and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof all between 1945 and 1955—the period that reflects the bulk of these notebooks.. Williams's dramatic life may be familiar to many, but thanks to Thornton's superb scholarship, his interior conflicts, motivations and drive are at last revealed. Photos. (Jan. 30)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The greatest American playwright? Regardless of one's personal thoughts on his ultimate ranking, Tennessee Williams was inarguably great. For the first time, and for dedicated aficionados of his work, his complete journals are now being published. Kept during his adult life, from 1936 (at age 25) to 1981 (two years before his death at 71), his journals were scribbled by pencil into a series of ordinary spiral-bound notebooks, but what they contain is not ordinary. These entries are Williams unvarnished; his voice and views are not rehearsed, second-guessed, or even polished. He is honest about his life and lifestyle, from his overnervous stomach to his sexual exploits to the places to which he traveled. When opened at any page, the book displays annotations, which have been carefully and energetically written, on the left-hand side; the journal entries themselves appear on the right side. The fact is that a large degree of the pleasure of the book derives from the enjoyment of reading these extraordinarily riveting annotations. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 856 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; annotated edition edition (January 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300116829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300116823
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 2.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #805,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983), one of the 20th century's most superb writers, was also one of its most successful and prolific. His classic works include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, Summer and Smoke, Camino Real, Sweet Bird of Youth, Night of the Iguana, Orpheus Descending, and The Rose Tattoo.

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Baird VINE VOICE on May 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Margaret Bradham Thornton is to be commended for compiling Tennessee Williams' journals with such painstaking attention to detail, in-depth analysis and thorough research. Her efforts afford the reader an amazing, unique glimpse into the life of an American literary giant -- a man whose plays, including The Glass Menagerie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and A Streetcar Named Desire, have become classics for the ages, not to mention a man who led an intriguing life in and out of the public eye. There is no shortage of skeletons to be found in Williams' closet; his homosexuality is a particular source of angst to him in a world that did not approve of such a thing. He dallies with male prostitutes, and in one instance gets severely beaten for his troubles. Meanwhile, he is haunted by his sister, who underwent a frontal lobotomy after being institutionalized (it is his guilt over leaving her to pursue his writing that drove him to write "The Glass Menagerie," which features a very Williams-esque young man desperate to escape his dreary life with a crippled sister and needy mother in order to pursue his dreams).

Through his notebooks, Williams provides you with a backstage pass to one of the most thrilling talents Broadway has ever seen, and through extensive footnoting Thornton puts it all into a clear narrative for you to follow along. She also includes countless photographs and pieces of artwork.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Charles S. Houser on February 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I signed this book out of the library knowing I could never be able to work my way through its 800+ pages in three weeks. First, I'm not a big reader of diaries or letters (I find them too vague and elliptical); secondly, it's a massive book. But I have spent the entire morning leafing through it and am finding it mesmerizing. The editor/compiler, Margaret Bradham Thornton, has done an excellent job of providing notes, photographs, facsimile's of handwritten poems and diary entries, and short biographies of the many people--famous, infamous, and unfamous--who passed through Williams's life. Her tone is professional and forthright; she neither dodges nor wallows in discussion of Williams's sexual life. The notebooks are complete in that they contain everything that is known to survive; they cover the periods from 1936 to 1958 and from 1979 to 1981 (Williams died in February 1983). If notebooks are ever found covering the missing years, I hope the Williams estate has the good sense to allow Thornton to edit them.

The format for this book is to run the notebook entries on the right-hand pages and use the facing pages for explanatory notes. The notes are in a smaller type and each page is packed with annotation, such is the generosity of Thornton. Another interesting feature is the inclusion of Williams's own marginal notes. Apparently, he re-read his diaries years later and was not shy about criticizing his earlier self.

I think this book will be of interest to anyone interested in American cultural life in mid-twentieth century, not just in the theater and film, but dance, painting, poetry, fiction, etc. It's amazing how these cultural worlds intersected and collided. This is a book I want to own. I've just ordered it from Amazon and will continue reading my library copy until it arrives. Fascinating stuff!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Joan McCarthy on February 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a magnificent book, really two books, as Tennessee Williams' journals are powerfully augmented by Thornton's meticulously researched and engaging annotations. Opposite every page of journal entries, one finds the sources and background on Williams' musings; Thornton gives us a map to Williams thoughts, and her notes enhance the journal entries immeasurably, making this book essential reading. It's tough to put down, and almost impossible to read properly, that is, in order-- no matter where one opens the book you are transported into the private life of this playwright whose works are so much a part of our literary and theatrical heritage. Thornton has also included a fascinating array of photographs which place Williams in the context of his time and his peers, and scribbled illustrations which add a whole other element to understanding this great writer-- this book is not to be missed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By William Shuman on August 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a playwright, Williams is my muse. This volume is an extraordinary window into the life and psyche of one of the greatest playwrights of the English speaking world. It is a wonderful adjunct to the biographical data both from Williams himself and those close to him who have chronicled his life and work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David Schweizer VINE VOICE on June 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the handsomest books I have read in years. The notes by the author/editor, who has annotated the daily diaries of playwright Tennessee Williams, are spectacularly thorough, covering virtually every actor, director, known and unknown, Williams ever met. Loads of fun reading the notes, and the diaries themselves on facing pages, with marvelous and copious photographs, goofy illustrations, maps - you name it. Williams hasn't much to say about his writing life, but lots to say about his state of mind, which is usually spinning out of control along with his life. Williams was part of that first real jet set, living in a given year in a dozen places. The first and last question on his mind was how to find "trade" by which he meant pick-ups for casual sex. Fascinating and then really boring like most pornography.
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