September 5, 2014
Tennessee Williams wrote D.H. Lawrence fan fiction (sort of)
by Monika Zaleska
Ah, fan fiction. Do you prefer The Hunger Games or One Direction? How about a mash up?
Apparently fan fiction’s not just an internet-era thing—it has a long history. An unpublished, forgotten play by Tennessee Williams recently re-discovered at the University of Texas, stars his literary idol D.H. Lawrence.
Williams, who wrote two plays based on Lawrence’s short stories and dedicated a poem and a play to the English writer, was a die-hard fan.
The unfinished project, which amounts to ten typewritten page and two scenes, takes place during World War I. It stars not only D.H. and his wife Frieda, but also writers Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murray, good friends of the Lawrences’. Here’s the setting for a scene called “The Night of the Zeppelin”:
“The room of a shoddy lodging place in London, 1916. The Murrays, John Middleton and Katharine Mansfield are visiting the Lawrences. It is near Christmas. Some German cookies, made by Frieda and a bottle of wine are on a little table and there is a small artificial tree with home-made decorations. The legend, PEACE ON EARTH, crowns the tree.”
In this scene, D.H. Lawrence and friends commence a hearty game of charades.
Unfortunately Williams never did get to meet his idol, as Lawrence passed away in when the Southern writer was a still a teen. However, he did correspond with, and eventually visit Frieda at her ranch in Taos, New Mexico. Frieda also has a starring role in Williams’ other, completed fan fiction play about Lawrence’s life: I Rise in Flame, Cried the Phoenix (1941).
I’m sure somewhere out there, a budding writer is continuing this hallowed tradition by writing fan fiction about Williams himself. There are certainly a lot of amateur/English class productions of his plays on Youtube, not to mention some reimaginings of A Streetcar Named Desire.
If I were going to give Tennessee Williams fan fiction a go, his co-star would be life-long pal Carson McCullers, and instead of wine and German cookies, the scene would be set with bourbon and matching typewriters.