Though I haven't done it in a long time, I used to read plays by certain playwrights in bunches. Tennessee Williams is one of my favorites, but I've n...moreThough I haven't done it in a long time, I used to read plays by certain playwrights in bunches. Tennessee Williams is one of my favorites, but I've never read him like that. Perhaps that's for the best, as his perceived excesses may not be conducive to such reading. This is not a play of excess, though it's certainly complex.
I heard about this play during a panel at the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival a couple of weekends ago and it sounded intriguing. It is more than that -- it is brilliant.
The main characters are Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, with appearances from their friends, including Hadley and Ernest Hemingway. Zelda could be seen in the mode of other Williams' creations, such as Blanche DuBois or Amanda Wingfield, but Williams subverts that expectation. Contradictions abound. As with any well-rounded creation, sympathies shift from character to character.
Judging from what the panelists on "Writing Tennessee's Story" at the Fest said, the play was ahead of its time -- and it closed in a matter of days. I don't think an audience today would have trouble with the 'ghosts', the shifting time and the layers of meanings, including those about the creator and the created. I could, and probably should, read it again.
One of the panelists, 95-year-old poet William Jay Smith -- 7 years younger than Williams, he said that is why he was able to be with us! -- was in a poetry-writing group with Tom (as he called him) back in their St. Louis days, and said this last play of Williams' was "Shakespearean" and "completely misunderstood." Another panelist, the director David Kaplan agreed, calling it "Strindberg-like" with its ghosts walking through walls. He added that it takes twenty years for theatre critics to "catch up" to new modes. About this play, he said the critics "didn't understand it, didn't want to, didn't want others to."(less)
"A Curtain of Green" certainly doesn't read like the first stories of a new writer. Except for a few in anthologies, (like the great "Why I Live at th...more"A Curtain of Green" certainly doesn't read like the first stories of a new writer. Except for a few in anthologies, (like the great "Why I Live at the P.O." and "Death of a Traveling Salesman," both included here) this is my first time reading her short stories, and I can't believe it took me this long to get to her. (May 10, 2008)
The Wide Net is another wonderful collection. Each story, except one (which is set in a bar in New Orleans with a mention of the Natchez Trace), is set in and around the Natchez Trace, including a couple of very interesting ones with historical figures as characters (Aaron Burr in one, Audubon in another, as well as real lesser-knowns) and another (possibly my favorite) that uses Greek mythological elements and a Greek chorus for the contemporary story of the town "Queen," a Hera-like harridan. The final story is heartbreaking. (July 23, 2011)
Dense and allusive, The Golden Apples is a tour de force: a short-story cycle that could be discussed endlessly, with its references to mythology, folklore, the nature of time and gender, escaping time and gender, and much more. Perhaps I wasn't always sure of what Welty was getting at when I was in the midst of a story, but by story's end, I marveled at the brilliance. (July 6, 2012)
Though maybe not the masterpiece the previous collection is, The Bride of Innisfallen is also the work of a master storyteller. The themes that bind this collection are perhaps subtle, but they are there, and the style of many of the stories is quite modern. Welty's way with dialogue and turns-of-phrase is impeccable. (July 23, 2012)
The two 'uncollected stories' (written in the early 60's) that end this volume say much more than they might seem to say, and are further evidence of Welty's keen eye, now trained on the changing times.(less)
The ten stories in the first section of this collection revolve around characters whose lives are touched in every way imaginable by their connection...moreThe ten stories in the first section of this collection revolve around characters whose lives are touched in every way imaginable by their connection to a sperm bank -— not only the donors, the donees and the children, but the workers as well. Except for the last story in this section, the stories are rather short though more than vignettes, a label that would belie their fullness, as the characters with their complex backgrounds expand beyond the page. The section starts off with the story of a 21-year-old sperm donor who is more than the “smart ass” the intake worker takes him for and ends with a sperm donor obsessed with the early deaths of the males in his family and imagining the possibility of his newborn having as many as 67 half-siblings.
That last story leads seamlessly to the second section, whose ten longer stories widen the scope. If the first section concerns the myriad responses to the choosing of new life, the second is more concerned with the familial experiences both before and after a death. ‘The Air You Breathe’ relates in reflection an 11-year-old's taking care of his father who has ALS, an experience which may have caused the boy’s agoraphobia. In this second section particularly, the stories are rich not only with characterization but unique imagery and beautiful sentences, such as “But it isn’t the freedom I want for my son, I thought. But thinking isn’t the right word for this knowing which was faster than thought, searing as a hot brand.” from ‘Duty Bound,’ a favorite for not only the aforementioned traits but also for its wisdom.
I know much more about Henry James than I do of his older brother, William, who is a muse for Tosteson, as evidenced in the story ‘Lifeboat.’ He is noted in her acknowledgments, as are the poets Vallejo and Neruda, whose lines are quoted in the story ‘It Wasn’t Meant to End This Way.’
The final story is another testament to the power of stories, specifically to the writing of them, even if one is 82-years-old “… tangling fact inextricably with fiction in a way that would change them both permanently for me and all who knew me or thought they did …”
These are openhearted, expansive, optimistic (though never saccharine) stories, all told from the first-person viewpoint (a minor quibble being that some of the voices seem similar), about the world we live in today. Despite the surprising variety of the families and lives depicted, only one seemed unrealistic but I found it quite funny.
According to her biography, Tosteson is also a photographer, so I assume the black-and-white photographs included are also hers. They are as diverse and thought-provoking as the stories they accompany.(less)
This volume is getting 5 stars from me, because it is just about the only place to read Maxwell's first novel, Bright Center of Heaven. I was further...moreThis volume is getting 5 stars from me, because it is just about the only place to read Maxwell's first novel, Bright Center of Heaven. I was further gratified to have the volume in hand, because I'm so in love I wanted to keep reading Maxwell after finishing his first novel, and so I did, immediately turning the pages to his short stories. (I'd read They Came Like Swallows prior to buying this.) Once done with the first set of stories, I immediately moved on to The Folded Leaf, continuing a love affair I didn't want to end.
I've reviewed the novels included in this volume separately, but I should mention that the 'extras' included here are just as worthwhile: not only the short stories, but also Maxwell's introduction to one novel, his preface to another, and the text of a speech about being a writer. The chronology and the notes by Christopher Carduff are very much appreciated as well, shedding interesting light on various episodes.
All in all, it's a beautiful volume (with a ribbon and slipcase, too), a Library of America subscriber edition that I found used. Of course its companion, Later Novels and Stories, is on its way to me.(less)