Sebastian Venable, the poet as pervert in Suddenly Last Summer, claimed as new and personal an old and decadent dictum now rephrased to suit the stage: 'The life of the poet is the work of the poet and the work of the poet is the life of the poet.' This is Oscar Wilde as rewritten by Tennessee Williams. The author of that gruesome playlet must have had in mind the notorious Algerian meeting near the fin de siecle in which Wilde, holding Bosie's hand, boasted before a timid André Gide of having put all his genius into his life (looking at Bosie) but only his talent (looking at Gide) into his writing - and in the same bad breath told Gide, a prim and puritanical pederast, that there was an Arab boy he shouldn't miss au poil for all the mint tea in Araby! Williams made his poet pervert die cannibalised on a Mediterranean beach. A film of the same summerish title and along similar lines, but in which the star was a Venus flytrap, was shot in Mexico and exhibited in the late Fifties but is now screened only in the late late shows. Unnaturally, the Mediterranean youth became riotous hungry children - of Sanchez perhaps? - eager to devour the pederast poet. As with so much of the propaganda posing as art which is made by American libbers with lots of reactionary American money (see Reds - or rather don't), the spectator never knows, in two dimensions, if he is watching a battle of attrition in the Third World, or an act of contrition for (not against) Plutocracy. But Pluto is a monster of such frightful mien that only Dickens could look it in the face and not vomit sweet and sour curses like 'imperialists', 'exploiters'.
LRB 18 November 1982 | PDF Download