Sunday, April 26, 2015

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

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

While trying to box clever with Davis, Williams was already dazed by harrowing bouts with Merlo, which made it almost impossible for him to concentrate on the professional task at hand. “Frank is not a bad boy,” Williams had written Wood. “In certain ways, his devotion to our pets, his devotion to the outcasts of society, the whores of Rome, the beatniks of New York, the cracked or cracking up ‘lost ones’ in Key West, even the chronic jail-birds and the heroin-addicts, is a bit like Saint Francis of Assisi who embraced the leper in the woods who cried ‘Unclean!’” Merlo, who couldn’t resist the desperate and the wounded, couldn’t say no to Williams.

But Merlo, too, was ailing. He “really didn’t feel well,” Paula Laurence, who was understudying Davis, recalled. “He used to walk the streets at night because he felt so poorly and didn’t want to upset Tennessee.” Williams, however, misconstrued Merlo’s late-night absences as rejection; “It’s over between us!” he bleated repeatedly to Corsaro in Detroit. Feeling the need for devoted attention, Williams had their black Belgian shepherd, Satan, acquired in Rome at Anna Magnani’s urging, shipped up from Key West. “He is a handy thing to have around when you are entertaining strangers whose kindness you aren’t quite sure of,” Williams wrote to Oliver Evans, with an admission that he was “a little scared of him myself.” (The previous summer, Satan had put a bite that required seven stitches in Marion Vaccaro’s hand.) Satan was good company at first. “He used to sit in front of me at the Book-Cadillac Hotel in Detroit, staring into my eyes with those lovely yellow eyes of his, and occasionally sticking out his tongue to give my hand a lick,” Williams recalled.

But one morning, after his stint at the typewriter, Williams went into the bedroom and stepped over Satan, who lay “like a guardian by the twin bed of Frankie.” As Williams slid into Merlo’s bed, Satan growled his displeasure. That night, the dog savaged Williams in his own bed and bit both his ankles to the bone. “He was starting for my throat when Frankie rushed out and pulled him off me,” he said. Merlo had the dog put down the next day. A week later, after his ankles, he claimed, “had swollen up almost to the size of an elephant’s,” Williams was hospitalized. He was under heavy sedation, but there was no way to calm his rampaging paranoia: Merlo had set Satan on him; Merlo wanted him dead; Merlo wanted his money.

No comments:

Post a Comment