Orpheus Descending and Suddenly Last Summer (New Directions Books)
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Two of Tennessee Williams's most revered dramas in a single paperback edition for the first time.
Orpheus Descending is a love story, a plea for spiritual and artistic freedom, as well as a portrait of racism and intolerance. When charismatic drifter Valentine Xavier arrives in a Mississippi Delta town with his guitar and snakeskin jacket, he becomes a trigger for hatred and a magnet for three outcast souls: storekeeper Lady Torrance, “lewd vagrant” Carol Cutrere, and religious visionary Vee Talbot.
Suddenly Last Summer, described by its author as a “short morality play,” has become one of his most notorious works due in no small part to the film version starring Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, and Montgomery Clift that shocked audiences in 1959. A menacing tale of madness, jealousy, and denial,the horrors in Suddenly Last Summer build to a heart-stopping conclusion.
With perceptive new introductions by playwright Martin Sherman ― he reframes Orpheus Descending in a political context and explores the psychology and sensationalism surrounding Suddenly Last Summer ― this volume also offers Williams’s related essay, “The Past, the Present, and the Perhaps,” and a chronology of the playwright’s life and works.
store.] LADY [with a touch of exasperation]: Is there something you want? CAROL: Everything seems miles away. . . . LADY: Carol, I said is there anything you want here? CAROL: Excuse me!—yes. . . . LADY: Yes, what? CAROL: Don’t bother now. I’ll wait. [Val comes out of alcove with the blue jacket on.] LADY: Wait for what, what are you waiting for! You don’t have to wait for nothing, just say what you want and if I got it in stock I’ll give it to you! [Phone rings once.] CAROL [vaguely]:
the eyes. You got to have—vision—to see! VAL: —Yes. Vision. Vision!—to see. . . . [Rises, nodding gravely, emphatically.] VEE: I paint from vision. They call me a visionary. VAL: Oh. VEE [with shy pride]: That’s what the New Orleans and Memphis newspaper people admire so much in my work. They call it a primitive style, the work of a visionary. One of my pictures is hung on the exhibition in Audubon Park museum and they have asked for others. I can’t turn them out fast enough! —I have to wait
loudly, contracting with the cold, Lady’s voice is harsh and sudden, demanding:] LADY: Well, is it okay or—what! VAL: I never been in a position where I could turn down something I got for nothing in my life. I like that picture in there. That’s a famous picture, that “September Morn” picture you got on the wall in there. Ha ha! I might have trouble sleeping in a room with that picture. I might keep turning the light on to take another look at it! The way she’s cold in that water and sort of
conducts her slowly to the patio.] Ah, we’ve made it, ha ha! I didn’t know that I was so weak on my pins! Sit down, Doctor. I’m not afraid of using every last ounce and inch of my little, leftover strength in doing just what I’m doing. I’m devoting all that’s left of my life, Doctor, to the defense of a dead poet’s reputation. Sebastian had no public name as a poet, he didn’t want one, he refused to have one. He dreaded, abhorred—false values that come from being publicly known, from fame, from
cigarettes and a cigarette holder. [He does.] DOCTOR: I don’t have matches. MRS. VENABLE: I think there’s a table-lighter on the table. DOCTOR: Yes, there is. [He lights it, it flames up high.] My Lord, what a torch! MRS. VENABLE [with a sudden, sweet smile]: “So shines a good deed in a naughty world,” Doctor—Sugar. . . . [Pause. A bird sings sweetly in the garden.] DOCTOR: Mrs. Venable? MRS. VENABLE: Yes? DOCTOR: In your letter last week you made some reference to a, to a—fund of some