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A Streetcar Named Desire (New Directions Paperbook) Paperback – September, 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 282 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Williams's classic play begins with Blanche DuBois's arrival in New Orleans to stay with her sister and brother-in-law, Stella and Stanley Kowalski. The determinedly genteel Blanche is shocked by their lower-class lifestyle—and by Stanley's frequently aggressive behavior. As Blanche's secrets catch up with her, a seedy reality trumps her love for romance. Rosemary Harris embodies Blanche with all the flare, attitude and Southern drawl commonly associated with the cultural icon. The role of Stanley is so physical that his presence is diminished by the lack of a visual performance, but James Farentino's Stanley is excellent. The overall production quality is excellent with musical segues and sound effects that enhance without distracting the listeners. This recording captures the cast of the 1973 Broadway revival (which won Harris a Drama Desk award and Farentino a Theatre World award). (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.


“In Streetcar Williams found images and rhythms that are still part of the way we think and feel and move.” (Jack Kroll - Newsweek)

“Lyrical and poetic and human and heartbreaking and memorable and funny.” (Francis Ford Coppola)

“The introductions, by playwrights as illustrious as Williams himself, are the gem of these new editions.” (Ken Furtado - Echo Magazine)

“Blanche is the Everest of modern American drama, a peak of psychological complexity and emotional range.” (John Lahr - The New Yorker)

Product Details

  • Series: New Directions Paperbook
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (September 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780811216029
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811216029
  • ASIN: 0811216020
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (282 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,914 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.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Tennessee Williams's masterfully written drama explores the extremes of fantasy versus reality, the Old South versus the New South, and primitive desire versus civilized restraint. Its meager 142 page spine is no indication of the complexity and significance that Williams achieves in his remarkable work. A strong aspect of the play is Williams's amazingly vivid portrayal of desperate and forsaken characters who symbolize and presumably resolve his battles between extremes. He created and immortal woman in the character of Blanche DuBois, the haggard and fragile southern beauty whose pathetic last grasp at happiness is cruelly destroyed. She represents fantasy for her many outrageous attempts to elude herself, and she likewise represents the Old South with only her manners and pretentions remaining after the foreclosure of her family's estate. The movie version of A Streetcar Named Desire shot Marlon Brando to fame as Stanley Kowalski, a sweat-shirted barbarian and crudely sensual brother-in-law who precipitated Blanche's tragedy. He symbolizes unrestrained desire with the recurring animal motif that follows him throughout the play. A third major character, Stella Kowalski, acts as mediator between her constantly conflicting husband and older sister. She magnifies the New South in her renounce of the Old pretentions by marrying a blue collar immigrant. Conflicts between these and other vividly colorful characters always in light of the cultural New Orleans backdrop provide a reader with a lasting impression and an awe for Williams's impeccable style and intense dialogue.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is another classic from my high school days that seems wasted on youth. How can a fifteen-year-old in prep school appreciate the desperation and human frailty of Blanche DuBois? Or the dichotomy inherent in Stanley Kowalski's passionate brutality?

BLANCHE: What you are talking about is brutal desire--just--Desire!--the name of that rattle-trap street-car that bangs through the Quarter, up one old narrow street and down another...
STELLA: Haven't you ever ridden on that street-car?

Many will have seen either the stage or film versions of Streetcar, but reading through Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer Prize-winning play allows for the depression to really set in. Readers may even recognize qualities in friends and family members approximating those of alcoholism or domestic violence.

BLANCHE: A hot bath and a long, cold drink always give me a brand new outlook on life!

There are so many great dialogue exchanges here, outside of the classic "kindness of strangers" quote. I'll snip a few of my favorites.

MITCH: You ought to lay off his liquor. He says you been lapping it up all summer like a wild-cat!
BLANCHE: What a fantastic statement!
Read more ›
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Tennessee Williams probably signed there his best play, at least the one that is best-known. It is entirely centered on a woman who flees from Mississippi to New Orleans to live, for a while, with her married sister. The two sisters were born in the Southern aristocracy that got bankrupt by not being able, or even refusing, to get into the new flow of time. One went away and married a working class immigrant who is in many ways uncultured and rough, even violent at times. But desire is stronger than that violence and love survives a row from time to time, provided truthfulness and some sensual sincerity exist. But that is only the secondary theme to which Blanche, the other sister, is confronted and this brings back her real drama that is burried in her memory. She married very young. Her husband was also very young and a poet. But she discovered that he also was gay and she could not accept it due to her southern aristocratic principles. He was an abomination and she told him so one night and he went out and killed himself. She never overcame her guilt and she delved into a more and more dissolute life with any man that could come along, till she went back to a substitute of her dead husband, a 17 year old boy. The family protested and she was expelled from the school system (she was a teacher) and from the city. Confronted to the life of her sister and husband, she regresses into southern sophistication. She comes across a man, Mitch, who could and even would like to marry her. But her sister's husband, wanting to get rid of her, exposes her lies about her past to his friend Mitch and his wife. He destroys the dream and Blanche sinks into some psychotic nightmare that becomes a complete breakdown when her brother in law, on the very night when his son was born, rapes her.Read more ›
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