Advance Praise for "Follies of God"

Follies of God (Alfred A. Knopf)
By James Grissom
Available March 3, 2015

 “There have been plenty of books written about Williams over the past three decades, but few weave so many voices into an original and compelling portrait. Grissom honors the life and achievement of his doomed correspondent.”

--Kirkus (starred review)

“[A] unique personal blend of road trip and literary history . . . philosophical, pragmatic, funny, and devastating . . . Grissom has succeeded in creating a kaleidoscope meditation on the people that entered Williams’ imagination—'the fog'—to become his signature characters.”
--Publishers Weekly

“Having been Tennessee Williams’s editor, and, I hope friend, for several years, I am in a position to certify that James Grissom's electrifying and wonderfully readable book about him is the real thing. He has caught the voice, the man, the artist, exactly as I remember him: generous to a fault, astonishingly kind, always a force of nature, a writer to whom poetry came naturally, on paper and in conversation, a great artist perhaps in grief over the loss of his genius, or his increasing difficulty of getting back in touch with it as the years went by, yet determined courageously to carry on, working, creating, always illuminated serenely from within even when tormented by his own demons. 

   “Few people have captured so well Tennessee’s strange mixture of fear and admiration for women, his profound understanding (rare among men) of what drives them, their dominating presence in all his work,  and his miraculous ability to work the magic of their strengths and weaknesses into some of the most powerful roles in the American theater. Lillian Gish, Maureen Stapleton, Jessica Tandy, Geraldine Page, Julie Harris, Katherine Hepburn (not to speak of his own mother and sister), these are among the women whose love, friendship and acting genius brought to life his characters and touched his soul, and Grissom has at last brought to the printed page some of the magic that radiated from Tennessee, even in his saddest moments, and explained so much more than we ever knew about the fierce, charming, and curiously evasive personality of America's greatest playwright.”

--Michael Korda, author of CLOUDS OF GLORY and CHARMED LIVES; former editor in chief of Simon & Schuster

“James Grissom's book is peerless . . . in both what it says about the creative sources of America's greatest playwright and in the way that it says it . . . It is, in every sense, one of a kind . . . The results of Grissom's inquiries with some of the most renowned figures of the twentieth century are astonishing . . . from Lillian Gish, Katharine Hepburn, Maureen Stapleton, Geraldine Page, Kim Stanley, and others, he elicits what are surely the most incisive interviews they ever gave . . . Their observations about Williams, acting, and life [are] chock-full of treasurable insights. And Williams' own extended quotations here are likewise the deepest, the most searing, the most revealing statements he ever offered: a magisterial summing up of a tormented soul  for whom salvation was to be found only through language, his lifelong love affair with arranging words on a blank page. [As Grissom] pursues its singular and always surprising course, it reveals Williams to us fully as artist and human being -- a flawed, fearful, self-destructive, achingly vulnerable, gallant, forever questing pilgrim: a genius and a visionary who tragically could never seem to take the measure of his own unparalleled gifts. This is an unexpected masterpiece.”

--Foster Hirsch, author of OTTO PREMINGER and THE DARK SIDE OF THE SCREEN  

Geraldine Page in Tennessee's Sweet Bird of Youth

"James Grissom's amazing and quite wonderful book, Follies of God, deals with the inspirations and heartaches of writing as experienced by Tennessee Williams, America's finest and most poetic playwright. As a young man, Grissom went to Williams for help as a writer, and found himself being asked to help the master with his own writing. The book is a unique and stirring examination of the profound effect of numerous talented actresses on Williams' memorable work. Remarkably revealing and extremely touching, Grissom's book is among the most provocative journeys into the soul of a writer."

--Peter Bogdanovich, film director and author 

"I know of nothing like James Grissom's book on Tennessee Williams and the women in his life. Part conversation, part investigation, it's like a wonderful talk show with Grissom as moderator between 'Tenn" and his great ladies. Grissom knows some and is dispatched to meet others--Lillian Gish, Marian Seldes, Frances Sternhagen, Geraldine Page, and Julie Harris among them. Movie stars are phantom guests as well. As the playwright and his Boswell wander the streets of New Orleans, we learn how these women were more than just favorite actresses. They were women whose very essence--their wounds, their vanities, their religiosity, melancholy--corresponded to his own and were crucial to the plays' conception."


"Imagine: a great playwright nearing the end of a troubled life charges a young writer with the quixotic task of tracking down the playwright's favorite actresses and finding out if he mattered to them. It sounds the stuff of fantasy. But young James Grissom took up Tennessee Williams' request and decades later has produced the result of that quest in an original, hypnotic, sui generis, bound-to-be-controversial document that becomes the history of his education as well as the illumination of ours. Thank you, James Grissom, for honoring the promise."


"Jim Grissom had amazing access to Tennessee Williams--and to the great actresses who starred in his plays. His revelations about these remarkable talents coping with the passage of time are moving and often shocking in their truths. A dazzling piece of writing."

--Lee Grant, Oscar-and Emmy-winning actress, and author of I SAID YES TO EVERYTHING

Lois Smith and Cliff Robertson in Tennessee's Orpheus Descending

"The book is called Follies of God by Jim Grissom. It's twenty-five years since I first learned of this project, and later agreed to an interview. I have never been especially adept at the juicy anecdote, but I'm really interested in the processes and collaborations of all us theater folk, whose work and way of life is at the same time very public, very private, and most collaborative. So I'm pleased and amazed that Follies of God is finally here.

"After a serial conversation, over days, with Tennessee Williams near the end of his life, Jim Grissom took on the unusual assignment he received from Tennessee--to interview actresses. Starting with Tennesee's intimate account of actresses' part in germinating his characters and plays, his very process, Grissom has added the voices of these actresses, and other collaborators, from a wide variety of interviews. I can't imagine how he put it all together. Always thoughtful, sometimes stunning, certainly juicy, I see Follies of God as a kaleidoscope for viewing Tennessee Williams and his time and place in American theater. A little turn, a new surprise, another view forms itself. There's nothing like it."

--Lois Smith, actress

"To call Follies of God biography, or oral history, or memoir, is to diminish the spell of this remarkable book. In it we meet Tennessee Williams at the raveled end of his life, desperate to discover what it meant, and what he had meant to the men and women--mostly women--who had called forth his best work; we meet the youthful James Grissom, an eager, stagestruck student, whom Williams enlisted as researcher, recording angel, and confidant; and we meet the outsize talents who had been Williams's muses, mentors, and occasional nemeses: among them Katharine Hepburn, Geraldine Page, Kim Stanley, Marian Seldes, Maureen Stapleton, Elia Kazan, Marlon Brando, John Guare, and Edward Albee. 'Be my witness,' Williams asked Grissom, directing him to seek out and depose this stellar cast of characters, and through the extraordinary testimony of these great artists, Williams comes into sharp and revealing focus. So, too, does the book's author, whose perceptiveness and generosity of spirit mark every page."




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