Thomas Lanier (“Tennessee”) Williams (1911-1983), is one of the great twentieth century American playwrights. His success first came with The Glass Menagerie (1945), and only grew with A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), and Clothes for a Summer Hotel (1980). One need consider only a handful of characters from Williams’s oeuvre – Amanda Wingfield, Stanley Kowalski, Blanche Dubois, Maggie, Big Daddy, all of whom are still very much alive in the lexicon of popular culture – to comprehend the scope of his contribution to the art world. In additions to plays, Williams wrote poems, short stories, letters, novels – take a look at The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone – and a rather frank and scandalous autobiography, Memoirs (1975). The mordant wit and sly innuendo of this literary great are crystallized, here, in a collection of his more brilliant Tennesseeisms.
We are all sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins for life.
What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through mountains.
You can be young without money but you can’t be old without it.
Most of the confidence which I appear to feel, especially when influenced by noon wine, is only a pretense.
The future is called ‘perhaps,’ which is the only possible thing to call the future. And the important thing is not to allow that to scare you.
The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.
There is a time for departure even when there’s no certain place to go.
A vacuum is a hell of a lot better than some of the stuff that nature replaces it with.
All cruel people describe themselves as paragons of frankness.
I can’t stand a naked light bulb, any more than I can a rude remark or a vulgar action.
If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.
Life is an unanswered question, but let’s still believe in the dignity and importance of the question.
When I stop working the rest of the day is posthumous. I’m only really alive when I’m writing.