Academic journal article Southern Quarterly

Vieux Carré

Academic journal article Southern Quarterly

Vieux Carré

Article excerpt

As if you left the theater "with the impression

of having been told a secret. Not a truth,

but a secret ." Clive Barnes for the New York Times,

summing up Tennessee Williams' late play, which saw

five performances before they shut the doors.

Williams, at 65, trying to understand his own

misbegotten youth, the early glory of some streetcar

named Desire long behind him then, the downward

spiral as of some French wrought iron grille rusting

in the unforgiving summer heat. Such beauty, such

plangent beauty he must have seen all about

the Vieux Carré, the jazz-saturated air, the blues,

the palpable sorrow of the helpless gambler who wages

everything and loses. The crowds at Mardi Gras,

the bands, the cheap and glittering trinkets tossed by angel

headed feathered figures from the floats, the rain-soaked

cemeteries with their rotting dead, the faithful few

at dawn on Ash Wednesday heading for the cathedral

on the square. The mud layers of its history: Huguenots,

red coats advancing, then Union gunboats, the miasma,

the old slave quarters with their chains, Preservation

Hall and Louis Armstrong's gravelly voice which

knocked them dead. …

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