The Innocence of Tennessee Williams
A EUROPEAN WHOSE knowledge of America was gained entirely from the collected works of Tennessee Williams might garner a composite image of the U.S.: it is a tropical country whose vegetation is largely man-eating; it has an excessive annual rainfall and frequent storms which coincide with its mating periods; it has not yet been converted to Christianity, but continues to observe the myth of the annual death and resurrection of the sun-god, for which purpose it keeps on hand a constant supply of young men to sacrifice. Its young’men are for the most part beautiful and fawnlike; an occasional rough customer turns up, but in the end he, too, is revealed as beautiful and fawnlike. Its women are alternately in a state of heat or jitters; otherwise they are Mediterranean. The country does not observe the traditional Western sexual orientation which involves the pursuit of the female by the male; instead, its young men reluctantly allow themselves to be had on those occasions when there is no way of avoiding it and when the act is signaled and underscored by portents of Elizabethan proportions. They are right in general to be of two minds regarding the sexual embrace, for it is as often as not followed by the direst consequences: cannibalism, castration, burning alive, madness, surgery in various forms ranging from lobotomy to hysterectomy, depending on the nature of the offending organ.
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