One Arm and Other Stories

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New Directions Publishing, 1967 - Drama - 211 pages
2 Reviews
Here are the eleven remarkable stories of Tennessee Williams's first volume of short fiction, originally published in 1948 and reissued as a paperbook in response to an increasingly insistent public demand. It was this book which established Williams as a short story writer of the same stature and interest he had shown as a dramatist. Each story has qualities that make it memorable. In "One Arm" we live through his last hours and memories with a 'rough trade" ex-prizefighter who is awaiting execution for murder. "The Field of Blue Children" explores some of the strange ways of the human heart in love, "Portrait of a Girl in Glass" is a luminous and nostalgic recollection of characters who figure in "The Glass Menagerie," while "Desire and the Black Masseur" is an excursion into the logic of the macabre. "The Yellow Bird," well known through the author's recorded reading of it, which tells of a minister's daughter who found a particularly violent but satisfactory way of expiating a load of inherited puritan guilt, may well become part of American mythology.
 

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Contents

ONE ARM
7
THE MALEDICTION
33
THE POET
61
CHRONICLE OF A DEMISE
73
DESIRE AND THE BLACK MASSEUR
83
PORTRAIT OF A GIRL IN GLASS
97
THE ANGEL IN THE ALCOVE
137
THE FIELD OF BLUE CHILDREN
153
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About the author (1967)

After O'Neill, Williams is perhaps the best dramatist the United States has yet produced. Born in his grandfather's rectory in Columbus, Mississippi, Williams and his family later moved to St. Louis. There Williams endured many bad years caused by the abuse of his father and his own anguish over his introverted sister, who was later permanently institutionalized. Williams attended the University of Missouri, and, after time out to clerk for a shoe company and for his own mental breakdown, also attended Washington University of St. Louis and the University of Iowa, from which he graduated in 1938. Williams began to write plays in 1935. During 1943 he spent six months as a contract screenwriter for MGM but produced only one script, The Gentleman Caller. When MGM rejected it, Williams turned it into his first major success, The Glass Menagerie (1945). In this intensely autobiographical play, Williams dramatizes the story of Amanda, who dreams of restoring her lost past by finding a gentleman caller for her crippled daughter, and of Amanda's son Tom, who longs to escape from the responsibility of supporting his mother and sister. After The Glass Menagerie,Williams wrote his masterpiece, A Streetcar Named Desire, (1947), along with a steady stream of other plays, among them such major works as Summer and Smoke(1948), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1954), and Suddenly Last Summer (1958). His plays celebrate the "fugitive kind," the sensitive outcasts whose outsider status allows them to perceive the horror of the world and who often give additional witness to that horror by becoming its victims. Stephen S. Stanton has summed up Williams's "virtues and strengths" as "a genius for portraiture, particularly of women, a sensitive ear for dialogue and the rhythms of natural speech, a comic talent often manifesting itself in "black comedy,' and a genuine theatrical flair exhibited in telling stage effects attained through lighting, costume, music, and movements." After The Night of the Iguana (1961), Williams continued to write profusely---and constantly to revise his work---but it became more difficult to get productions of his plays and, if they were produced, to win critical or popular acclaim for them. Williams won the Pulitzer Prize for drama for A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for these two and for The Glass Menagerie and The Night of the Iguana.

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