Edward Albee talks about Wilder's influence on his career
I was visiting a friend of mine at the McDowell Colony, a writer's retreat in New Hampshire, oddly enough. And Thornton was there visiting, and I knew who he was, and I carried a small volume of my poetry with me wherever I went. I was making the terrible mistake of being a poet in those days. I was in my early twenties, and I hadn't written plays yet. I had written two terrible novels. I knew I wasn't a novelist. I still thought I was a poet. And I ran into Thornton Wilder and I handed him a bunch of my poems and said, My name is Edward Albee. Read these. And he's a very nice man, and so the next day he said, uh.. I've- I've read these plays, these- these poems, rather. I want to take you out and get you drunk. Well, you know what I thought. I thought that my poetry had undergone a sea change since when I was eighteen and I'd- I'd shown it to W. H. Auden, and he didn't think much of it. I thought it was, God, it was so glorious now that Thornton Wilder couldn't discuss it sober, you know. We- we had to be drunk for him to talk about it. That wasn't it. He just wanted to have some bourbon, you know. And I didn't mind, either. So we sat by a tiny lakelet in the- in the New Hampshire countryside at sunset with this bottle of bourbon. And the sun was setting, and as the level of the bottle of bourbon kept setting, he would discuss each poem of mine and then gently, I think intentionally, set it afloat on the surface of the pond. But he read about 20 or 30 of my- of my poems. He said, I've- I've read all these poems, Albee. He didn't call me Edward until later. I've read all these poems, Albee. I said, Yes. I see them. There they are all floating. He said, I've read all these poems. Pause. Have you ever thought about writing plays? Now, I don't think he saw the incipient playwright in my poetry. I think he was trying to save poetry from me and suggesting something else. And I was- as I- I was reading this volume of the letters, and he gave great pa- praise to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. He- he- he had read that or seen that. And he didn't like The Zoo Story very much for some reason. He thought it was too old fashioned, you know, two guys meeting on a park bench in Central Park. I didn't- don't remember any plays like that before, but he thought it was too old fashioned. Anyway, he set me in the right direction.