Christopher Castellani's fourth novel, Leading Men -- for which he received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the MacDowell Colony -- was published by Viking in February 2019. Leading Men was featured in Publishers Weekly, People, Entertainment Weekly, Interview, The Washington Post, and was an Editors' Choice of the New York Times. His collection of essays on point of view in fiction, The Art of Perspective: Who Tells the Story, was published by Graywolf in 2016. Castellani is on the fiction faculty of the Warren Wilson MFA Program and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. He lives in Boston, where he is artistic director of GrubStreet, the country’s largest and leading independent center for creative writing.
Photo credit: Michael Joseph
Illuminating one of the great love stories of the twentieth century - Tennessee Williams and his longtime partner Frank Merlo - Leading Men is a glittering novel of desire and ambition, set against the glamorous literary circles of 1950s Italy
In July of 1953, at a glittering party thrown by Truman Capote in Portofino, Italy, Tennessee Williams and his longtime lover Frank Merlo meet Anja Blomgren, a mysteriously taciturn young Swedish beauty and aspiring actress. Their encounter will go on to alter all of their lives.
Ten years later, Frank revisits the tempestuous events of that fateful summer from his deathbed in Manhattan, where he waits anxiously for Tennessee to visit him one final time. Anja, now legendary film icon Anja Bloom, lives as a recluse in the present-day U.S., until a young man connected to the events of 1953 lures her reluctantly back into the spotlight after he discovers she possesses the only surviving copy of Williams's final play.
What keeps two people together and what breaks them apart? Can we save someone else if we can't save ourselves? Like The Master and The Hours, Leading Men seamlessly weaves fact and fiction to navigate the tensions between public figures and their private lives. In an ultimately heartbreaking story about the burdens of fame and the complex negotiations of life in the shadows of greatness, Castellani creates an unforgettable leading lady in Anja Bloom and reveals the hidden machinery of one of the great literary love stories of the twentieth-century.