Tennessee Williams’ “catastrophe of success”

Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams

In 1944, at the age of thirty-three, Tennessee Williams scored a soaring triumph with his play The Glass Menagerie. And then? Catastrophe.

That’s not my word, it’s his. He even wrote an essay called “The Catastrophe of Success”, which is nowadays appended to copies of the play.

He could, of course, have used a different word for his success: Impostor. That’s what Kipling called it, and what I’m calling it (as well as disaster) in my book. Williams’ essay is, naturally, in my bibliography.

But why would Williams say that? Success, he wrote, is “a kind of death, I think, and it can come to you in a storm of royalty checks beside a kidney-shaped pool in Beverly Hills or anywhere at all that is removed from the conditions that made you an artist.”

I will add: Or the conditions that made you a warrior, such as Hannibal. Or a politician, or a businessman, or an athlete, or….