(Jennifer Schuessler’s article appeared in The New York Times, Sept. 1, 2014.)
The first rule of biography, the writer Justin Kaplan was known to say, is: “Shoot the widow.” But John Lahr’s new biography, “Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh,” originated with something closer to a literary commando raid.
It was 1994, and Mr. Lahr, the recently appointed drama critic for The New Yorker, had been called to the aid of Lyle Leverich, a former theater producer and Williams’s chosen biographer. Mr. Leverich had two letters attesting to that fact. But Maria St. Just, a longtime confidante of Williams’s who became his iron-fisted literary guardian after his death in 1983, had steadfastly refused to grant permission to quote from any of his letters or journals, effectively holding the project hostage.