A book receiving a good deal of critical and patron attention is Leading Men by Christopher Castellani. A novel tracking the relationship between the writer Tennessee Williams and Frank Merlo, as well as the career of the fictional actress Anja Bloom, it is not afraid to ask some big questions about love, fame, and the price we pay for each. Leading Men does this through keenly observed psychological observations, though the physical ones are pretty stunning, too. Want more? Here's your viewing and reading list.
Williams considered his time with Merlo to be his happiest and most creatively productive. Among the other screenplays Williams wrote at the time, the one that is most relevant is Suddenly, Last Summer, where a doctor in a mental institution confronts the aunt of a patient with her own culpability in the young woman's illness. The play The Rose Tattoo, written early in his relationship with Merlo and dedicated to him, is one of the few of Williams' great plays that turns out halfway happily. Orpheus Descending, another of Williams' plays with a virile hero, is a tragic retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Its tepid reception is part of Leading Men.
If you want more on the life of Tennessee Williams, there are plenty of resources. One of the most recent (and acclaimed) biographies is Tennessee Williams by John Lahr. Follies of God by James Grissom explores Williams' relationship with women, both real and the ones he created. If you want more on what the actual Tennessee thought, both The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams and Five O'clock Angel (his letters to Maria St. Just) are good places to start. Williams was a master of catering to his audience, as these collections show.
If the opening scenes in Italy capture your fancy, there's Too Brief A Treat, Truman Capote's letters to various people and a good chronicle of his life. Dreadful is David Margolick's biography of Jack Horne Burns. Of course, one of the best films capturing that era in Italy is La dolce vita by Fellini.
Have other good novels of love and literature? Tell us in the comments.