Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tennessee Williams and Me

"Don't look forward to the day you stop suffering, because when it comes you'll know you're dead. " --Tennessee Williams

I fell in love with the work of Tennessee Williams as a young adolescent, and this love affair never died. I love the passionate, seedy Southern life he portrays. Perhaps because my roots are in the seedy South. I love the way he crafts words and paints pictures, making magic with vowels and consonants. For years as a young woman I talked of going to New Orleans, or Key West (wherever he was living at the time) and filling his mailbox with roses. Isn't that a pretty idea?

Unfortunately, this was all the hot air and posturing of youth. I never made it to that mailbox. I never bought those roses.

Tennessee Williams was from my home town of St. Louis, Missouri. He loathed St Louis. He never said a good word about it. Just watch The Glass Menagerie and you'll see why. It was where he ran from. So of course when he died, his brother brought him there to bury him. Yep, the lawyer brother decided to plant him in exactly the last place on earth he would want to be.

"The most dangerous word in any human tongue is the word for brother. It's inflammatory." --Tennessee Williams
This travesty did allow me to finally see my hero face to face. He was dead of course. But still, maybe he was around somewhere nearby watching.

One advantage of looking like I do is that I appear sweet and harmless. I went to the funeral home before the public events started, and charmed the funeral guy with my best harmless wiles. He let me sit alone with Tennessee, marveling at the overpainted face and mahogany monstrosity they placed him in.

No, I did not buy him roses. He was dead, after all. Roses are meant for the living. And definitely not for brothers who bury you in the last place you want to be. Williams' body was interred in the Calvary Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri, despite his stated desire to be buried at sea at approximately the same place as the poet Hart Crane, whom he considered one of his most significant influences.

livingdominica: if anyone on the island would like to do a production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, I think I would be a perfect Big Mama.


ruypster said...

Wonderful Blog!

Greetings from Spain.

ruypster - Blog
Là où je passe, je laisse ma trace.

Minerva said...

The best personal tribute to Tennessee Williams I ever read. Makes me want to put a bunch of yellow roses (don't know why yellow...something subconscious?) for him somewhere. :-)

Jen said...

Thank you, ruypster and minerva!

Yes, his bouquet should be yellow roses, perhaps a bit faded but wonderfully fragrant.

Laurence said...

Hi Jen,

Congratulations from Martinique for your sublime blog.
My husband, kid and I will be visiting your beautiful island next week and I really look forward to meeting the nice people of Dominica. We will be staying two nights at Picard's beach cottages, then a week in Calibishie.
We seem to have quite a few common points, not only are we both expats (I arrived from Metropolitan France to Martinique in 1999), but I'm also very admirative of Tennessee William's work. As an ESL teacher, I produced a resource page for my students on my teaching website, you might be interested to have a look.

I also forgot to mention our third common point: the bloggosphere.