Caterpillar Dogs: And Other Early Stories


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These tales were penned by one Thomas Lanier Williams of Missouri before he became a successful playwright, and yet his voice is unmistakable.

The reliable idiosyncrasies and quiet dignity of Williams's eccentrics are already present in his characters. Consider the diminutive octogenarian of "The Caterpillar Dogs," who may have just met her match in a pair of laughing Pekinese that refuse to obey; the retired, small-town evangelist in "Every Friday Nite is Kiddies Nite," who wears bright-colored pajamas and receives a message from God to move to St. Louis and finally, finally go to the movies again; or the distraught factory worker whose stifled artistic spirit, and just a soupçon of the macabre, propel the drama of "Stair to the Roof."

Love's diversions and misdirections, even autoerotic longings, are found in these delightful lagniappes: in "Season of Grapes," the intoxicating ripeness of summer in the Ozarks acquaints one young man with his own passions, which turn into a fever dream, and the first revelation of female sexuality blooms for a college boy in "Ironweed."Is there such a thing as innocence? Apparently in the 1930s there was, and Williams reveals it in these stories.