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The Kindness of Strangers

Arguably, Tennessee Williams is the greatest American playwright. Don't get me wrong, I love Wendy Wasserstein, Lorraine Hansberry, and Tom Kopit. But when it comes to absolute lyricism and profound symbolism, for my money, Williams is at the top of the list.

Maybe I'm biased because I am/was a high school English teacher and I taught A Streetcar Named Desire for about seven years running. But in those seven years I never tired of teaching it. Every time I found some new nuance, image, or phrase that deepened my understanding of the play. I don't think there's any other playwright who has so beautifully and brutally captured the day to day struggle of living. (Sam Shepard? Eugene O'Neil? Arthur Miller?)

To see dozens of people reading everyday on the subway assures me that Blanche's speech to Stella about how in this world "there's art, and poetry, and music" and plea not to "hang back with the brutes" were not in vain. People still value art. People still value the written word. I guess that's why it struck me as so profound to see this next title during my commute home this evening:

1. Tennessee Williams: Selected Letters Vol. II 1945-1957- Albert J. Devlin and Nancy Marie Patterson Tischler*

"The opposite of death is desire," says Blanche. And one can see that desire portrayed so well by Kim Hunter and Marlon Brando in the film version:


And don't even get me started on the fire escape symbolism in The Glass Menagerie.


The rest for today:

2. We Got Fired... And It's the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Us!- Harvey MacKay*

3. The Teeth of the Tiger- Tom Clancy*

4. Running With Scissors: A Memoir- Augusten Burroughs*


The play does have a deathless and almost mythic quality. I rememebr a marvelous production I saw in London in the seventies with Claire Bloom as Blanche. My favorite American play, though, might be O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night.
Wow. Claire Bloom. I'm sure she was wonderful.