Thursday, September 1, 2011

Shame, Shame, Shame

Shame, Shame, Shame

“his own anti-redemptive,
grotesque-lyric territory”
—Linda Dorff, “Tennessee
Williams’ Grotesque-Lyric
Exegetical Poems,” Southern
Quarterly, Fall 1999

What could be more “serio-comic, grotesque-lyric”—than the seduction scene in “Baby Doll,” upstairs in the rotting, crumbling Southern mansion? Talk about ironic, grotesque, camp sensibility.

Surrealistically silly, Silva and Carol Baker playing hide-and-seek thru endless empty rooms and the attic. With the Smiley Lewis’ 1956 rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack of “Shame, Shame, Shame” blaring away in the mock-erotic background?

Williams has this grotesque, cannibalistic screenplay style, recycling old romantic-scripts into new modern-scripts. Assimilating Smiley Lewis lyrics into his own personal melodramatic scenes, as well as rewriting other lyrics into his Southern exegetical exposé extravaganzas.

Williams shamelessly glossing the past, manhandling it, misappropriating this and that. Texts, metatexts and intertexts, all coming and going, backwards and forwards, becoming new again.

Faggy Sturm und Drang, endearing Miss Enlightenment, rude Rough Trade Romanticism. All these genres getting subverted and gender-fucked, Williams’ grotesque reversals of the Sublime into the Slimy, deformed from graceful Southern charm, into modernist evil & no-good, dragging today's darkness into even dingier darkness down there.

“On Queer Poesy & Art”

Williams redoing Miss Coleridge into “On Queer Poesy & Art,” Miss Williams doing the same with “Summer and Smoke.” How to abandon bourgeois str8t existence, revisiting gay grotesque thru Deep South decadence?

The opening scene of “Baby Doll,” a crumbling, rotting, dumpy Southern mansion. Standing there as the credits unfold, so starkly gothic and forlorn. The abandoned antebellum ideal, grotesquely revealed in the ugly modern cheesy Hollywood real.

Sebastian Venable, hardly romantic. Already swathed in bad boy bruises, soon to be cannibalized by the very hustlers he worships on the Cabeza de Lobo beach. Getting his lips on them thru his fag-hag cousin Liz, so tantalizing with her big-tits and transparent one-piece swimming suit.

Not that much different than Miss Auden, with her dolorous eyes and hackneyed rhymes. Her pitiful little jingles about his “Wound,” that furtive fuck with the handsome sailorboy in the park. His grotesque, wounded, bloody asshole, so much for the exhausted Wordsworth/Coleridge poetic vision.

An elderly Verlaine, twenty years afterward, still bewildered in the debris of young Rimbaud’s romantic honeymoon. Sitting, waiting, listening, like some spinster waiting for a caller not coming.

So much for imaginary gardens, with real toads crawling around in them. Grotesquely wounded fag poets, struck dumb, anesthetized by modernist infernos. Pealing the kid back, the slug-track snail’s slimy head.

Endgame blinded, nothing but partialities. Pieced together, self-consciously segued with lip-smacking smegma. Blind, paralyzed, unable to create a gay or str8t narrative. Behind his mask of silence, blue sky is just a lovely piece of paper.

Beyond Alexandra Del Lago

No more “comeback” for Alexandra Del Lago, the sweet bird of youth is gone. No more Weimar drag, burlesque, cabaret camp to masquerade dreary Norma Desmond reality. Just vagabond young hustlers, selling themselves to Miss Williams. The jizz-jet that’s art, seminal insouciance.

Williams’ burning brain, radiating grotesque-lyric like images. The front of his face, burning away in the flames. Like Shelley’s crepe suzette cremation, body boiling, bubbling, hissing…

Shelly’s incandescent cremation finally becoming totally romantically pure, leaving his sad drowned water-logged body behind. The leftover corpse broiling in the fire, then splitting open like a grilled pig!

Orpheus/Sebastian Venable

“I have been driven at last
to the parks. The first night
brought me a most strenuous
wooing and the largest
instrument I have ever handled.
Europa and the Bull are
now entirely passé.
—Hart Crane, Letter to
Wilbur Underwood, 4/4/22

No cheap Shelley bonfire weenie roast for Miss Williams, as she gives Sebastian Venable a much more grotesque send-off. Eaten alive by a starved mob of naked Cabeza de Lobo youth, much to Liz Taylor’s totally horrified shocked look!

“Suddenly, Last Summer” without the Shelley lyricism, letting rapacious teenage cannibals do what they do so well. Doing to Sebastian what he did to them. Eating him alive, inch by each squirming, screaming inch. Sebastian-esque fags bite the dust…

Str8t film critics similarly simply stunned and aghast, “Suddenly” not exactly your typical Renaissance portrait of a delicately pierced pretty angelic boy. Bloody Orpheus comes more to mind, rebirth thru descending stages of grotesque genital dismemberment.

Williams as Orpheus, descending into a bizarre Underworld, so heavy with gold and heavy jewels that he can’t breathe and is crushed. Rewriting the underwater kingdom of the dead, echoing Crane’s images of death at the bottom of the sea. Dismemberment tropologies of the ocean, “athwart lanes of death and birth.

Presuming no carnage, just a slight, silken transmemberment on the sands below. Permitting voyage, orphic cycle and bones washing up on shore. How could a youth jump off the Bridge, down into the azure swing of East River tides. Aeolian harps in such a modern age, a Brooklyn Bridge floating singer coming up late?

Williams’ Orpheus doesn’t ascend, in some kind of tacky romantic transcendence. It’s a Dionysian dismemberment, he's a shamefaced fugitive kind caught up in descent and declivity.

It’s Williams' disordering of his senses, a Rimbaud-esque dérèlement de tous les sens. Becoming a diseased poet, a criminal playwright, an accursed dramatist, the supreme faggot idiot savant.

Williams’ late dramaturgy, still employing modes of expressionist theater. But he's shifting into unknown, experimental gay territory. Not just rehashing some vaguely romantic ideas, Williams enacts dialogues with certain classsic romantic poems. Nature and function of poetry, beyond naïve southern regionalist smatterings.

A highly literate gay modernist, whose poetry and plays are as deeply layered as Joyce or Proust. A challenge to modern gay poets today, meandering in the contemporary post-Stonewall cesspool sea.

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