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In the introduction to Tennessee Williams’s Collected Stories (1985), Gore Vidal suggests the stories “are the true memoir of Tennessee Williams. Whatever happened to him, real or imagined, is here. Except for an occasional excursion into fantasy, he sticks close to life as he experienced or imagined it” (xx). At the time of the volume’s publication, just two years after Williams’s death, critical attention to the short fiction had focused primarily on its significance as apprentice work and as source material for the plays that made him famous; when Dennis Vannatta published the first book-length study of the short fiction in 1988, he estimated that Williams criticism “runs probably fifty to one—a very rough estimate—concerning the plays rather than the short stories.” (ix) Although critical attention came belatedly to the fiction, Williams produced and published it throughout his long career, and the collected stories do indeed represent the scope and variety in his “life as he experienced or imagined it”: from the unrequited love of shy loners to the brash machinations of street swindlers, from the small Southern towns to exotic cities, from the quiet moments of human contact to acts of sudden and shocking violence.

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This document was originally published in The Tennessee Williams Annual Review by the Tennessee Williams Annual Review. Copyright restrictions may apply.