Poets and Playwrights Book Reviews

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School Library Journal, August 2007

On Tennessee Williams and Carl Sandburg

The first book is written in an easy style, using short sentences and an unsophisticated vocabulary. Nonetheless, it is a good basic biography of the poet, including his checkered employment history, involvement with Socialism, and marriage. Murcia covers the Sandburgs’ early life and how they connected through working on political causes, and follows them to their goat farm in North Carolina. Short passages of Sandburg’s poems are included, as is a discussion of his epic Lincoln biography and other writings. Tracy covers the familiar territory of Williams’s dysfunctional personal life and struggle to find success, presenting the material in an easily understood fashion. She is frank in her discussion of his homosexuality and his difficulties in “settling down.” The author shows how much of Williams’s life ended up on the stage, introducing readers to his mentally ill sister and overbearing mother, both of whom appeared repeatedly as characters in his plays. The book includes a short (usually one paragraph) summary of his works and some background on their debut on Broadway or beyond. The author twice refers to Williams’s days in Provincetown, RI (it is, in fact, in Massachusetts). Both books have good-quality photos and short features interspersed between chapters on various important figures of the day (like FDR) or issues of the era (like the discovery of the diphtheria vaccine). Both books are appropriate for reluctant readers or those with high interest-low reading levels, and will be well used by report writers.

Booklist, April 2007

On Tennessee Williams

Tracy, an arts and entertainment journalist who has written for Variety, employs a feature-writing style in this biography of playwright Tennessee Williams. Following Williams from birth to death, Tracy makes credible links between events and influences in Williams' life and the subjects and themes in his work. Extensive factual research combines with Tracy's brief analysis of Williams' plays for a generally cohesive whole. She has knitted together a colorful introduction to her subject that avoids sensationalizing, particularly in discussions of Williams' gay relationships, his sister's mental illness, or his struggle to balance success with inspiration. Source notes for direct quotes, a glossary, and extensive further-reading lists conclude this strong title in the new Poets and Playwrights series.