The Caterpillar Dogs: And Other Early Stories

New Directions. Apr. 2023. 112p. ISBN 9780811232326. pap. $14.95. F
While forced to work under his father at a shoe factory, Tom Williams—soon to be known as the prolific playwright and author Tennessee Williams—wrote poems on the lids of shoe boxes and plays for a theater company in St. Louis. He also wrote short stories. Character studies, really, seven of which make up this most recent offering. In the title story, the author hilariously recounts what would unfortunately become an older woman’s final act of trying to rid her home of the housekeeper’s pesky “caterpillar dogs.” Another recounts the bitter loneliness of a young man who is abandoned after a brief romance at a summer camp. As the collection unfolds, the stories tend to increase in length, giving the author more and more space to explore his subjects. Williams plays with dialect, sometimes writing lines that can require a second glance, as when he creates words such as toleja and phrases like jes’ naow. These stories are never too difficult to follow, however, and don’t always provide much by way of plot, but that seems to be by the author’s design. The collection, in whole or in part, is no less pleasant to consume.
VERDICT A pithy, easy-to-read collection, with an excellent introduction, especially for devotees of the author.
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