Picks and Pans Review: Tennessee: Cry of the Heart

UPDATED 04/22/1985 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 04/22/1985 at 01:00 AM EST

by Dotson Rader

"He spent a lifetime on the run...he was a perpetual fugitive, chased by the hounds of remorse and loss and the terror of going crazy." Thus writes journalist and novelist Dotson Rader of his friend, playwright Tennessee Williams. "Like his father, he spent much of his life in hotels, living out of suitcases and dining on room service, liked booze and wild parties, opened up his life to street boys and hustlers with whom he had fleeting affairs. He could not settle down; he required drama, self-drama, a continuous commotion and social disturbance." In short, the brilliant playwright was a difficult, miserable human being. Still, he may not have deserved Rader's biography. It is a rambling, repetitive, gossipy, tasteless recital of Williams' paranoid skirmishes with his agent, with Norman Mailer, with Gore Vidal and with an endless parade of lovers. (Rader says he and Williams were never lovers, though they shared a hustler once.) There are shocking, sordid stories about Carson McCullers, Jim Morrison of the Doors, and many others. According to Rader, Williams drank heavily and took every pill and shot he could get his hands on. The reader will wonder how Williams survived until his accidental death in 1983 at age 71. It's also hard to see how such self-abuse and such an obsessive, dangerous sex life left time for Williams to write his 50 plays and many short stories. But the most unpleasant thing about this tell-all remembrance is that Rader portrays himself as the one person who really loved Williams and, would always show up when called—assisting in procuring drugs that made Tennessee crazy. With a friend like Rader, Williams certainly didn't need any enemies. (Doubleday, $16.95)

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