By Carey Purcell
25 Mar 2014
Narrated by a college freshman, "Crazy Night" tells the story of his romance with a senior, Anna Jean. Williams dated fellow student Anna Jean O'Donnell and wrote poetry about her while attending the University of Missouri at Columbia.
Williams, who is known for his plays A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Glass Menagerie, among others, also wrote short stories. Many of his works are included in "Tennessee Williams: Collected Stories." The book's introduction, which was written by Williams' friend Gore Vidal, states that the stories served as a fictionalized diary for Williams.
"It ('Crazy Night') seems to have been written when Williams was rather young, probably around the 1930s," Strand managing editor Andrew Gulli told the Associated Press. "The funny thing is that Williams in his notebooks and memoirs went into a lot of detail about his love affairs but with Anna Jean he made only a passing mention. Could this be the missing piece of the puzzle?"
"Crazy Night," which is set after the stock market crash of October 1929 and before the 1933 repeal of Prohibition, takes place on a college campus. A ritual where students are expected to binge on sex and alcohol serves as the inspiration for the title.
Williams' memoir, which was published in 1975, stated that he and O'Donnell had a "poignant and innocent little affair." In his poem "To Anna Jean," he calls her a "well-staged play, with lights and screens." In "Crazy Night," the narrator and Anna Jean enjoy "the ultimate degree of intimacy" before he loses her to another student.
"Both her arms were lifted toward me," Williams wrote. "I had fallen between them. And the rest of what happened between us was a blind thing, almost involuntary, drawing from us both something that seemed hardly a part of ourselves."
"There is a theme of disappointment, the old 'mendacity theme' from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," the AP quotes Gulli as saying. "He could show how beneath the cloak of respectability his characters had horrible insecurities and dark secrets. 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."