A Streetcar Named Desire, by Thomas Hart Benton

The Notebooks of Tennessee Williams, as compiled, databased, and published by Margaret Bradham Thornton, are one of the most astonishing acts of scholarship I have seen (and I have seen plenty).  One example: Here's a painting called Poker Night, by Thomas Hart Benton, based on what we know of as A Streetcar Named Desire, givenContinue reading “A Streetcar Named Desire, by Thomas Hart Benton”

Tennessee Williams: How to live (and love) past despair

How to live (and love) with despair in our hearts is a question our disaster-prone century must face. And with the possible exceptions of Shakespeare and Chekhov, no dramatist has shown us how to face emotional disaster with the verve of Tennessee Williams.  That's the subtext of this lovely essay on Williams, who turns 100Continue reading “Tennessee Williams: How to live (and love) past despair”

When Tennessee met Christopher (Isherwood, that is)

We need a break from all this disaster, don't we? Well, I do. To clear our minds, here's a note about the encounter of a couple of famous writers, who maybe should have gotten along, but didn't.   In the l940's, while working for M-G-M on a Lana Turner picture that never happened, young TennesseeContinue reading “When Tennessee met Christopher (Isherwood, that is)”

Tennessee Williams: the playwright at age two

Turns out Tennessee Williams' mother Edwina Williams published her memoirs, called Remember Me to Tom, back in l963. It's a very good thing she did, for she tells a slew of great stories. Reading her "as told to" book, it's easy to hear her speak, and easy to guess where Williams got the model forContinue reading “Tennessee Williams: the playwright at age two”

What Tennessee Williams really thought of the movies

The writer character named Tom, widely agreed to be a stand-in for Tennessee Williams himself, in his aria on the movies from a great production of The Glass Menagerie running in Los Angeles now: Tom:Yes, movies! Look at them [a wave towards the theaters outside] All of those glamorous people — having adventures, hogging it all,Continue reading “What Tennessee Williams really thought of the movies”

The Writer vs. the Artist

One of Tennessee Williams' most accomplished (and least appreciated) plays is the last one he wrote, Vieux Carre. It's worth reading just to experience Williams characterize himself as a young man, living in New Orleans, encountering the human wrecks he would glorify in his immortal Streetcar. A month or so ago Hilton Als of TheContinue reading “The Writer vs. the Artist”

How Lovely Wetness Makes the Flesh

This holiday weekend some swimming may have happened. We all know how beautiful people can be emerging from the water, but it takes a poet to see the bigger picture… By Tennessee Williams, in the fall issue of Southwest Review. Written on the stationery of the Hotel Woodstock, the poem dates from 1939, when WilliamsContinue reading “How Lovely Wetness Makes the Flesh”