Thursday, June 08, 2006

This is my fifth blog for the year 2006

Browsing through the biography section of any library is a great pleasure. Recently I picked up an older volume entitled "Memoirs" by one of America's greatest playwrights, Tennessee Williams. It was full of photos of his family and the celebrities who acted on the stage in one of his plays, or who were featured in a movie made from the original play. It was a trip to the recent past and well worth the time spent.

On the day when I selected "Memoirs" I also picked up a copy of "A Million Little Pieces" by James Frey. The big scandal over his book, which contains many lies, and his appearances on the Oprah television show are old news by this time, but I was curious enough to want to see what all the fuss was about.

The two books are oddly enough, linked strongly by each author's addictive personalities. That they are both writers is true, but Tennesse Williams is a great playwright and James Frey is anything but great. Frey's book is filled with obscene words; perhaps addicts really do talk the way he wrote, but it becomes a very boring and repititive read. He must have some positive writing traits; Oprah liked the book enough to publicize it and make Frey a millionaire. I thought his account of treatment and his friends was not at all interesting. He is self absorbed, selfish and not even truth ful. After pushing through his book, I was absolutely certain that I could never be an addiction counselor. I had no sympathy, and a lot of judgmental thoughts. That reaction is probably why most addiction counselors are recovering addicts.It takes one to know the BS when they hear it.

Mr. Williams was not only an addict, but a homosexual in the days when revealing your sexual preference was a very risky action, even if you are as famous and wealthy as he was. He wrote his memoirs in 1972 and they were published in 1975. Only a few years later Tennessee was dead (1983) and imagine my surprise when I learned that there was a suspicion (especially by his brother Dakin) that he had been murdered. The police report seemed to be that he had overdosed on pills. Dakin said that he had been smothered by a pillow. His idea was that someone didn't want Tennessee to change his will. Knowing enough about his life, filled with risky homosexual encounters, and an enormous amount of alcohol and pills, I couldn't begin to guess what might be the truth about his death.

Tennessee Williams does deserve his fame and his awards. He wrote some of the most enduring dramas of the modern age. He won more than one Pulitzer prize and numberous other recognitions of his genius. The very first professional stage play I ever saw was "The Glass Menagerie" at the Guthrie theatre in Minneapolis.( A longer time ago than one cares to admit.) And anyone who hears the wail of "STELLAAAAA) knows immediately that it comes from "A Streetcar Names Desire." Reading his account of his life story was very entertaining. (He did not ever tell the reader exactly when and how he came to be called Tennessee, since his given name was Tom. But that is a very minor flaw in his recollections.)

In a comparison between an old volume of "Memoirs" and the modern book of 'truthiness', "A Million Little Pieces" there really is no contest. Enjoy your choice. You have heard mine.

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