An unseen short story by Tennessee Williams about a debauched student party has been published for the first time.
“Crazy Night” is set on an unnamed university campus in the early Thirties, when “students graduating or flunking out of college had practically every reason for getting drunk and little or nothing that was fit to drink.”
The title refers to a ritual at the end of spring term during which students are expected to binge on alcohol and sex- a “feverishly gay” party on the surface, but in reality "the saddest night of the year”.
The short story refers to a student named Anna Jean, a scarcely veiled reference to Williams’ ex-girlfriend Anna Jean O’Donnell, who he dated while at the University of Missouri.
Williams wrote poetry about O’Donnell but only mentioned her briefly in his diaries.
Andrew Gulli, managing editor of The Strand journal, which has published the short story, said: “The funny thing is that Williams in his notebooks and memoirs went into a lot of details about his love affairs but with Anna Jean he made only a passing mention. Could this be the missing piece of the puzzle?”
Williams is said to have used his mother as inspiration for Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, and drew on his sister to create Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie.
“Crazy Night” shares Williams’ common theme of appearance versus reality, and what really lies beneath the thin veneer of propriety.
“He could show how beneath the cloak of respectability his characters had horrible insecurities and dark secrets," Gulli told the Associated Press.
"Williams was a master of showing the desperation and need humans have for companionship and was equally skilled at showing how relationships go sour and lead to cynicism.”
While Williams was most celebrated for his plays, he wrote short stories for decades, many of which appeared in the 1985 anthology Tennessee Williams: Collected Stories.