The Unreliable Tenderness of the World

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The Luck of Friendship: The Letters of Tennessee Williams and James Laughlin
Edited by Peggy L. Fox and Thomas Keith
Norton. 352 pages, $39.95

 

 

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS met James Laughlin at a party in New York given by Lincoln Kirstein, the man responsible for founding, with George Balanchine, the New York City Ballet. To Laughlin, the founder of a new publishing house devoted to the avant-garde, Williams was a promising poet whom Kirstein had recommended, and anyone Kirstein recommended Laughlin took seriously. To Williams, the shy, impecunious poet in a tattered sweater hiding in one of the smaller rooms of Kirstein’s apartment, Laughlin was someone who might publish what he called, in a letter to his family, his “verse.”

Most people consider Williams a “poetic” playwright—someone whose lines have entered the English language the way poetry does (“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”), but few have read or know about his poems and short stories. The first volume of Williams’ poems that New Directions published was In The Winter of Cities (1956); the second, twenty years later, Androgyne, Mon Amour (1977). And Laughlin was always asking for more. He admired Williams’ poetry, he told his author, because, unlike most of the avant-garde poets, Williams wrote for the heart.

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Andrew Holleran’s fiction includes Dancer from the Dance, Grief, and The Beauty of Men.

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