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hargrett library :: past exhibits :: donald windham portrait

Donald Windham: A Full Length Portrait of the Writer

Picture of Windham's books

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1920, Donald Windham left home in 1938 for New York City and the writing life. There he became friends with the young Tennessee Williams, with whom he would collaborate in writing a play, You Touched Me, based on the D.H. Lawrence short story. The play was mounted on broadway in 1945 after Williams’ success with The Glass Menagerie. This achievement allowed Windham to quit his job as editor of Dance Index and to continue working on the novel which was to become Dog Star.

view of Italy

Dog Star, completed during the first of Windham’s many trips to Italy, received critical acclaim in England and was considered by Thomas Mann as the finest American novel of 1950; however, the novel met with little success in the United States.

During the 1950s, Windham attained little success at home. His stories were published in such European magazines as Horizon, Paris Review, and Botteghe Oscure. With the aid of his life-long companion, actor-writer Sandy Campbell, Windham would have several pieces of his work including The Hitchhiker privately published.

By the end of the decade, Windham’s fortunes had turned. The New Yorker published a suite of his stories. Several would later provide the foundation to his memoir Emblems of Conduct. In 1960, Windham received the prestigious Guggenheim fellowship for fiction. The same year saw the publication of Warm Country, a collection of Windham’s stories most of which had been published originally outside the U.S.

Windham in a bar

Windham went on to write four more novels and publish memoirs of his friendships with Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote. In recent years, Windham’s precise prose has garnered new interest. A new generation of readers has begun to discover his "admirable talent."

 

 


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