Picks and Pans Review: My Brother's Keeper

UPDATED 06/13/1983 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 06/13/1983 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Dakin Williams and Shepherd Mead

Rushed into print just after Tennessee Williams choked to death on a plastic bottle cap in a New York hotel, this book by the playwright's younger brother is blatantly opportunistic. "Tennessee's untimely death," says Dakin, 64, with less a sense of fraternal loss than of capital gain, "gave me millions of dollars of publicity." Dakin's memoirs have been polished by co-author Shepherd Mead (who wrote How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying), then supplemented with letters written by Tennessee to family members and interviews with Tennessee's lovers and friends. Dakin's project had been under way three years when his brother died, yet it seems perfunctory, and covers much the same ground as Tennessee's own Memoirs, published in 1975. The biography details Tennessee's homosexual life and his dependency during the '60s on daily amphetamine injections. Dakin blames Tennessee, too, for inflicting "the final straw that separated my sister from her sanity." Rose had tattled to her parents in 1936 about a wild party Tennessee held. "I hate the sight of your ugly old face," Tennessee hissed at her. He later admitted his outburst was "the cruelest thing I have ever done in my life," and immortalized her in The Glass Menagerie. But a year after the incident Rose, then 26, had a lobotomy and has lived since in sanitariums. Dakin, too, appeared in one of his brother's works. Shortly after he lost a race for the U.S. Senate from Illinois in 1980, a mean-spirited congressional candidate turned up in Tennessee's play A House Not Meant to Stand. When Dakin committed him to a mental hospital for a drug-addiction cure, Tennessee was so angry he cut his brother out of his will, leaving an estate estimated at $10 million to Harvard and the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. Dakin plans to contest the will. (Arbor House, $16.95)

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