Sentiments from Streetcar, Summer and Smoke, and all the rest

Tennessee Williams
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Tennessee Williams was always writing. Born in Columbus, Mississippi, in 1911, and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Williams learned that he could find meaning in putting pen to paper—"no refuge but writing," he said. On a 1978 episode of the British radio program Desert Island Discs, he described his writing routine: "I feel very, very guilty if a day passes in which I haven't written." From that work came plays, poetry, novels, and short stories—though the plays are the most well known of his oeuvre and include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Summer and Smoke, The Rose Tattoo, The Night of the Iguana, and Camino Real. Some of his oft-quoted lines from those works, as well as from his letters and essays, are collected below. In the words of the playwright, "En avant!"

"Make voyages! Attempt them. There's nothing else." (Camino Real)

"Has it ever struck you that life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quick you hardly catch it going?" (The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore)

"Don't you just love those long rainy afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn't just an hour - but a little piece of eternity dropped into your hands - and who knows what to do with it?" (A Streetcar Named Desire)

"When so many are lonely as seem to be lonely, it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone." (Camino Real)

"Life is an unanswered question, but let's still believe in the dignity and importance of the question." (Where I Live: Selected Essays)

"In memory everything seems to happen to music." (The Glass Menagerie)

"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." (New Selected Essays: Where I Live)

"I didn't go to the moon, I went much further—for time is the longest distance between two places." (The Glass Menagerie)

"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." (A Streetcar Named Desire)

"There is a time for departure even when there's no certain place to go." (Camino Real)

"I try to work every day because you have no refuge but writing. When you're going through a period of unhappiness, a broken love affair, the death of someone you love, or some other disorder in your life, then you have no refuge but writing." (Conversations with Tennessee Williams)

"There are no 'good' or 'bad' people. Some are a little better or a little worse, but all are activated more by misunderstanding than malice. A blindness to what is going on in each other's hearts." (The Selected Letters)

"A high station in life is earned by the gallantry with which appalling experiences are survived with grace." (Conversations with Tennessee Williams)

"I don't want realism. I want magic!" (A Streetcar Named Desire)

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