Gentlemen Callers by Michael Paller

Outside of the movie version of A Streetcar Named Desire, or reading the script for Glass Menagerie in high school, I’ve never had any connection to Tennessee Williams. Sadly, I have never seen one of his plays on stage either except for a horrible version of Camino Real that I don’t count.

But I still have always been intrigued by him both as a playwright and as a homosexual. After the recent trip to his grave, I wanted to learn more about him. So, I picked up this book in a local used bookstore and read it in about a week.

It’s pretty dry reading, and lost my attention at times since I wasn’t acquainted with most of Williams’ work. At times, Paller goes on and on about the latent and hidden homosexual characters or themes of various plays of Williams, but he balances this with an almost microscopic look into where Williams was in his life while he was writing each play. We see how Williams took the events in his own life and turned it into art. It inspired me to want to know more.

Paller also gives the reader a glimpse into how society was treating homosexuals at the time as well – from science and medicine, to psychology and even the military. We get a very detailed look into what life was like for Williams as a homosexual through the 50s and 60s.

Part biography, part history, and part theatre review, the book offers up a nice detailed account of the man Williams was and the work he created.  I’ve never been much for nonfiction or bios, but I enjoyed this read.

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