Follies of God: Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog (Paperback)
This remarkably illuminating portrait of Tennessee Williams lifts the veil on the heart and soul of his artistic inspiration: the unspoken collaboration between playwright and actor.
At a low moment in Williams’s life, he summoned to New Orleans a young twenty-year-old writer, James Grissom, who had written him a letter asking for advice. After a long, intense conversation, Williams sent Grissom on a journey on his behalf to find out if he or his work had mattered to those who had so deeply mattered to him. Among the more than seventy women and men with whom Grissom talked were giants of American theater and film: Lillian Gish, (“the escort who brought me to Blanche”), Jessica Tandy (the original Blanche DuBois on Broadway), Eva Le Gallienne (“She was a stone against which I could rub my talent and feel that it became sharper”), Maureen Stapleton, Julie Harris, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Elia Kazan, Marlon Brando, John Gielgud, and many more. Follies of God provides dazzling insight into how Williams conjured the dramatic characters and plays that so transformed American theater.
“A portrait of Tennessee Williams that is richer, more enthralling and, yes, stranger, than any heretofore. . . . This is an extraordinary work. Not only for those who love theater, but also for those who would seek an understanding of the mind of the artist.” —New York Journal of Books
“Amazing and quite wonderful. . . . A unique and stirring examination of the profound effect of numerous talented actresses on Williams’ memorable work. . . . Grissom’s book is among the most surprising and provocative journeys into the soul of a writer.” —Peter Bogdanovich
“Grissom magically captures the vein and even voice of Tennessee in this beautifully written book about the actresses in his plays. Would that I had been one of them! There is no greater American playwright and Follies of God reveals why.” —Jane Alexander
“There have been plenty of books written about Williams over the past three decades, but few weave so many voices into an original and compelling portrait. Grissom honors the life and achievement of his doomed correspondent.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A unique personal blend of road trip and literary history. . . . Philosophical, pragmatic, funny, and devastating. . . . Grissom has succeeded in creating a kaleidoscope meditation on the people who entered Williams’ imagination—‘the fog’—to become his signature characters.” —Publishers Weekly
“Imagine: a great playwright nearing the end of a troubled life charges a young writer with the quixotic task of tracking down the playwright’s favorite actresses and finding out if he mattered to them. It sounds the stuff of fantasy. But young James Grissom took up Tennessee Williams’ request and decades later has produced the result of that quest in an original, hypnotic, sui generis, bound-to-be-controversial document that becomes the history of his education as well as the illumination of ours. Thank you, James Grissom, for honoring the promise.” —John Guare, author of The House of Blue Leaves and Six Degrees of Separation
“Extraordinary. . . . Grissom manages the remarkable feat of unlocking the creative process of America’s foremost dramatist. . . . A highly idiosyncratic journey into the nature of creativity.” —James Fisher, Theatre Library Association
“A great work. . . . It takes a humane artist to capture the quality of another, and Grissom is surely that.” —Gay City News
“Memorable. . . . Provides new and valuable insights into the playwright’s psyche and life.” —Library Journal
“Grissom had amazing access to Tennessee Williams—and to the great actresses who starred in his plays. His revelations about these remarkable talents coping with the passage of time are moving and often shocking in their truths. A dazzling piece of writing.” —Lee Grant
“Always thoughtful, sometimes stunning, I see Follies of God as a kaleidoscope for viewing Tennessee Williams, and his time and place in American theater. A little turn, a new surprise, another view forms itself. There’s nothing like it.” —Lois Smith
“Grissom’s electrifying and wonderfully readable book is the real thing. He has caught the voice, the man, the artist, exactly as I remember him. . . . Few people have captured so well Tennessee’s strange mixture of fear and admiration for women, his profound understanding (rare among men) of what drives them, their dominating presence in all his work, and his miraculous ability to work the magic of their strengths and weaknesses into some of the most powerful roles in the American theater.” —Michael Korda, author of Clouds of Glory
“Grissom’s book is peerless . . . in both what it says about the creative sources of America’s greatest playwright and in the way that it says it. . . . A magisterial summing up of a tormented soul for whom salvation was to be found only through language. . . . Reveals Williams to us fully as artist and human being—a flawed, fearful, self-destructive, achingly vulnerable, gallant, forever questing pilgrim: a genius and a visionary who tragically could never seem to take the measure of his own unparalleled gifts. This is an unexpected masterpiece.” —Foster Hirsch, author of Otto Preminger and The Dark Side of the Screen