Andrew Gulli, Managing Editor at The Strand Magazine, has unearthed another diamond in the rough. 

This time, the discovery is an arresting short story called “The Summer Woman,” by that acclaimed wordsmith Tenessee Williams. The Strand is the first to publish it, a well-earned honor after the research of tracking it down in the Houghton library in Harvard and confirming that it had never reached the rest of the world. 

The Strand has published many exciting works from such giants as John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Mark Twain, and “The Summer Woman” is another one of its crown jewels. Williams, who was born in 1911 and died in 1983, became extremely successful over the course of his lifetime and is widely regarded as one of the greatest playwrights in history. 

ANOTHER AMAZING FIND 

Obviously, he is known first and foremost for his heavily award-winning plays (A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Glass Menagerie to name a few), but he penned other, smaller-scale works as well. This short story only proves his remarkable range as an author. 

“The Summer Woman” 1952, isn’t a big-screen motion picture or costumed backstage drama, but its lyrical prose splashes with a vividness that’s nearly visual. It’s about a socially anxious and observant man weathering the heat of a Roman summer and witnessing the scenes he’s familiar with evolve beyond easy recognition with the uneasy passage of post-war time. He is employed back in America as head of the English department at a well-off Southern University, but on his summer vacation he embraces a very different, somewhat bohemian lifestyle. 

These summers overseas begot a relationship with a lovely young woman named Rosa, “but after all he had met her on the street and was that something that someone in his position could overlook?” No, indeed, it wouldn’t do, so he refuses her request to marry. They grow apart during the months spent with an ocean dividing them. Upon his return to Italy, he finds she has returned to “the street.” Beneath this reconnoiter of love and lust runs a rapid river of PTSD and war-induced trauma that is, potentially, the real conflict of the narrative. 

A SHORT STORY FOR YOUR FINAL BLAZE OF SUMMER 

Intense imagery and authentic emotion exude from every page. Phrases like “pulverous blaze of summer,” “she had taken him by his cold, nervous fingers and led him into that country and made him quickly at home there,” and “something wild and unsuitable, belonging to the afternoon of his youth”, slam us, the readers, exactly where the writer wants us. We are enlivened by such rarefied, jarring language. 

In his editorial note, Gulli surmises that “With a few broad strokes, Williams evokes the beauty of the country and the genuine friendliness of its people, while masterfully drawing clear parallels between the American protagonist’s seasonal relationship with an Italian prostitute and U.S. entanglements overseas — both rife with conflict, resentment, and disillusionment.” Yes, “The Summer Woman” is a quick read, but it is also one that will lure you back again, and a third, fourth, or hundredth time, as you delve into the layers of meaning that define the works of Mr. Tenessee Williams. 

“The Summer Woman” is featured in issue 64 of The Strand, which is now available on newsstands and on the publication’s website.