Download Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh Audiobook

Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh Audiobook, by John Lahr Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: John Lahr Narrator: Elizabeth Ashley Publisher: Brilliance Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2014 ISBN: 9781491519684
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The definitive biography of America's greatest playwright from the celebrated drama critic of The New Yorker.

John Lahr has produced a theater biography like no other. Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh gives intimate access to the mind of one of the most brilliant dramatists of his century, whose plays reshaped the American theater and the nation's sense of itself. This astute, deeply researched biography sheds a light on Tennessee Williams's warring family, his guilt, his creative triumphs and failures, his sexuality and numerous affairs, his misreported death, even the shenanigans surrounding his estate.

With vivid cameos of the formative influences in Williams's life—his fierce, belittling father Cornelius; his puritanical, domineering mother Edwina; his demented sister Rose, who was lobotomized at the age of thirty-three; his beloved grandfather, the Reverend Walter Dakin—Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh is as much a biography of the man who created A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as it is a trenchant exploration of Williams’s plays and the tortured process of bringing them to stage and screen.

The portrait of Williams himself is unforgettable: a virgin until he was twenty-six, he had serial homosexual affairs thereafter as well as long-time, bruising relationships with Pancho Gonzalez and Frank Merlo. With compassion and verve, Lahr explores how Williams's relationships informed his work and how the resulting success brought turmoil to his personal life.

Lahr captures not just Williams’s tempestuous public persona but also his backstage life, where his agent Audrey Wood and the director Elia Kazan play major roles, and Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani, Bette Davis, Maureen Stapleton, Diana Barrymore, and Tallulah Bankhead have scintillating walk-on parts. This is a biography of the highest order: an audiobook about the major American playwright of his time written by the major American drama critic of his time.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Unsurpassable…An eloquent, spellbinding narrative that emerges as an instant classic.”

    Ron Chernow, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Washington: A Life

  • “There’s never been an American critic like John Lahr. His writing exalts, honors, and dignifies the profession and, more importantly, the art.”

    Tony Kushner, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Angels in America

  • “Splendid beyond words. It would be hard to imagine a more satisfying biography.”

    Bill Bryson, New York Times bestselling author or At Home

  • “Lahr has managed to capture the complex and at times contradictory qualities—the razor wit and gracious Southern charm, the bottomless drive and uncanny capacity for self-destruction—that characterized one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers.”

    USA Today

  • “Raises the curtain on Tennessee Williams.”

    Vanity Fair

  • “A masterpiece.”

    New Yorker

  • “Offers plenty of backstage anecdotes and high private drama…But Mr. Lahr, ever the critic, keeps the plays themselves front and center…The book has already won enthusiastic advance notice…along with blurbs from a kick line of A-list ‘theatricals’ including Helen Mirren, John Guare, and Tony Kushner.”

    New York Times

  • “In his fascinating biography of, arguably, America’s finest playwright, John Lahr gives a sense of the ebb and flow of Tennessee Williams’s life, exercising a critic’s keen eye on the plays, a novelist’s gift for characterization, and a historian’s awareness of the way the changing American society colored his work. The result is almost as much a biography of the plays as of the playwright — a book that lets the life illuminate the work and the work illuminate the life…In Lahr’s telling, Williams changed the shape and the ambition of the American commercial theater with a body of work drawn from his inner life that resonated particularly well with the American mood from the end of World War II to the beginning of the Vietnam War.”

    Washington Post

  • “Excellent…A forceful claim for the playwright’s immortality.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Lahr’s expansive, polished, and keenly observed volume is a major work of American theater criticism and biography.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Writing with sympathy and insight, former New Yorker drama critic Lahr invests the Tennessee Williams of this brilliant new biography with the same vitality and honesty that the playwright used to bring his characters to life…Though Lahr acknowledges the successes of previous Williams scholars, his achievement is not likely to be surpassed.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “The tormented life of a celebrated American playwright…Lahr knows his subject intimately and portrays him with cleareyed compassion. Drawing on vast archival sources and unpublished manuscripts, as well as interviews, memoirs, and theater history, he fashions a sweeping, riveting narrative. There is only one word for this biography: superb.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “With her smoky voice and Southern accent, Elizabeth Ashley is the perfect narrator for this ‘warts and all’ biography of one of America’s most treasured literary icons. Ashley is no stranger to the works of Tennessee Williams—she starred in the 1974 Broadway revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. With poise and sensitivity she reflects the penetrating insights, lashing humor, and shattering anger that Williams expressed in his many letters and memoirs, which are liberally quoted throughout, covering everything from his troubled relationship with his father to his binge drinking, open homosexuality, and, most important of all, his absolute, untiring dedicating to the craft of writing. Ashley is unsparing and loving in her reading, and Williams would have expected nothing less. Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”


  • “This is a masterpiece about a genius. Only John Lahr, with his perceptions about the theater, about writers, about poetry, and about people could have written this book. What a marvelous read.”

    Helen Mirren, Academy Award-winning British actress

  • “Swear-to-god, it’s the most original, insightful, thrilling biography I’ve ever read!”

    Elizabeth Ashley, American actress 

  • Longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award for Nonfiction
  • A Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week for September 2014
  • Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
  • A Washington Post Top 10 Book
  • One of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2014

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About the Author

John Lahr, the author of eighteen books, was the senior drama critic of the New Yorker for over two decades. He has twice won the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism and is the first critic ever to win a Tony Award for coauthoring the 2002 Elaine Stritch at Liberty.

About the Narrator

Elizabeth Ashley, a star on Broadway, film, and television, has appeared in fourteen of Tennessee Williams plays, including the iconic 1974 Broadway production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Ashley won a Tony Award and has three more nominations for her stage work, in addition to Golden Globe and Emmy nominations.