In 1960, Edward Albee electrified the theater world with the American premiere of The Zoo Story, and followed it two years later with his extraordinary first Broadway play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Proclaimed as the playwright of his generation, he went on to win three Pulitzer Prizes for his searing and innovative plays. Mel Gussow, author, critic, and cultural writer for The New York Times, has known Albee and followed his career since its inception, and in this fascinating biography he creates a compelling firsthand portrait of a complex genius. The book describes Albee's life as the adopted child of rich, unloving parents and covers the highs and lows of his career. A core myth of Albee's life, perpetuated by the playwright, is that The Zoo Story was his first play, written as a thirtieth birthday present to himself. As Gussow relates, Albee has been writing since adolescence, and through close analysis the author traces the genesis of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Tiny Alice, A Delicate Balance, and other plays. After his early triumphs, Albee endured years of critical neglect and public disfavor. Overcoming artistic and personal difficulties, he returned in 1994 with Three Tall Women. In this prizewinning play he came to terms with the towering figure of his mother, the woman who dominated so much of his early life. With frankness and critical acumen, and drawing on extensive conversations with the playwright, Gussow offers fresh insights into Albee's life. At the same time he provides vivid portraits of Albee's relationships with the people who have been closest to him, including William Flanagan (his first mentor), Thornton Wilder, Richard Barr, John Steinbeck, Alan Schneider, John Gielgud, and his leading ladies, Uta Hagen, Colleen Dewhurst, Irene Worth, Myra Carter, Elaine Stritch, Marian Seldes, and Maggie Smith. And then there are, most famously, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who starred in Mike Nichols's acclaimed film version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The book places Albee in context as a playwright who inspired writers as diverse as John Guare and Sam Shepard, and as a teacher and champion of human rights. Edward Albee: A Singular Journey is rich with colorful details about this uniquely American life. It also contains previously unpublished photographs and letters from and to Albee. It is the essential book about one of the major artists of the American theater.
John Guare playwright Mel Gussow has caught the exhilarating feel of that time in the fifties and sixties when the traditional theater world was flying apart and there at the center stood Edward Albee. Gussow's haunting portrait of an artist thriving and surviving in the American theater over the last forty years is splendid, riveting, and happily unfinished.
Marian Seldes actress Mel Gussow, who has the rare gift of writing well about writers and their work, has found an ideal subject in Edward Albee. The brilliant playwright's life is as fascinating as a work of fiction. Linking Albee's life to his plays and his plays to the life of the theater during the last four decades, Edward Albee: a Singular Journey is biography at its very best.
Ned Rorem composer and author For someone like myself, who actually knew so many in the cast of characters, reading this book had the wistful elation of leafing through an old family album. For a more objective (and much younger) reader, the book should be a lesson in the craft of dramaturgy and a model for the eternal and never-to-be-resolved questions about the relation between an artist's life and his work. Much of this biography is actually autobiography, so seamlessly does Gussow weave the writings and speech of Albee into an instructively readable whole. I consumed it in one gulp.
Sir John Mortimer novelist and playwright A fascinating and illuminating account of a great dramatist in search of his identity.
Lyle Leverich author of Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams Mel Gussow has written a wonderful book. As a drama critic and biographer, he has given the reader both an objective and a subjective insight into the enigmatic character of one of the century's great playwrights. This is a biography, succinct and eminently readable, that is truly definitive.
Kitty Carlisle Hart I was totally charmed and fascinated by Mel Gussow's biography of Edward Albee.
Richard Foreman playwright and director Mel Gussow's Edward Albee is one of the best theatrical biographies ever, giving unique insight into the stress and strain of making oneself into a major artist.