The Luck of Friendship: The Letters of Tennessee Williams and James Laughlin

Norton. Mar. 2018. 352p. ed. by Peggy L. Fox & . notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393246209. $39.95. LIT
OrangeReviewStarPlaywright Tennessee Williams and New Directions publisher James Laughlin met at a cocktail party in 1942. They bonded, almost immediately, over a shared respect for the poetry of Hart Crane. Williams wrote Laughlin. Laughlin wrote back. Thus commenced one of the great literary friendships of the 20th century, reflected in this first collection of letters, edited by former New Directions publisher and Laughlin's literary coexecutor Fox, and New Directions consulting editor Keith. Often separated by geography, Williams and Laughlin remained close until Williams's death in 1983. Both were supportive of each other and passionate about literature. Early in the relationship (1945), Williams claimed "You are my literary conscience." Laughlin helped the immensely talented but emotionally frail Williams, publishing his works and bolstering his confidence when he needed support. Williams is presented in his most attractive guise here: a kind man, who, though frequently distracted by demons, was basically decent and thoughtful. Around the portrait of this friendship circles the perpetual talk of the writer's craft, which, for both men, was a serious, never-ending business.
VERDICT Both men are giants and these letters are gems. The audience for this exemplary collection should be legion.

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