Saturday, April 18, 2015

the last book I ever read (Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, excerpt one)

from Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh: A Biography by John Lahr:

Battle of Angels bore witness to Williams’s quest for spiritual transformation, for “new patterns,” as an antidote to “this welter of broken pieces, wreckage, that floats on the surface of life.” “I have spent so many years making myself over in such a way as to get along with bastards, cultivating a tough skin, rejecting my tender responses before they are rejected,” he said. The regenerative power of the primitive—the shedding of psychological skin—is signaled by Val’s snakeskin jacket, “a shameless, flaunting symbol of the Beast Untamed!” and an emblem of both his protean metamorphosis and his wild, feral nature. After Val is lynched, Christ-like, by an angry mob of townsmen, the snakeskin is the only part of him that remains. Hung up by the Conjure Man on the back wall of the dry-goods store in the play’s last moment, the jacket glows in a shaft of sunlight—a radiance that clearly suggested the sacramental. The Conjure Man, the final stage direction reads, “seems to make a slight obeisance before it. The religious chant from across the wide cotton fields now swells in exaltation as the curtain falls.” The moment announces Williams’s romantic credo: instead of dedicating himself to God, he made a god of the self.

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