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T, Truthiness

T, Truthiness

A2Z-BADGE-0002015-LifeisGood-230_zps660c38a0Teetotaling, Tennesee Williams and a Trip to Echo Falls.

It was the perfect time to attend the Tennesee Williams Festival, right as I was steeped in the book TRIP TO ECHO FALLS and its crisscrossed stories of alcoholic writers and the cities they lived in. Tennessee Williams, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Chaucer, Cheever. New York, New Orleans, Key West, Seattle.

British author, Olivia Laing starts her journey in New York City at an AA meeting, where one brave soul describes his loss of connection to others as ‘decomposing lace’. (Love that). As Laing relives moments in the lives of great authors – a range of addiction-fueled carnage and messy genius – she toggles between great literary works and the AA creed, with a little neuroscience and memoir thrown in. She touches on her own family’s challenges with addiction. I wish she’d go deeper.

She stops in New Orleans as part of her journey across America as she writes and researches the book. Like me, she alights in The French Quarter, a place, she writes, that smells of horse pee and rotten bananas. And like me, she drinks at the Carousel bar of the Hotel Monteleone.

Teetotaler: someone who does not drink 
at all usually for health, religious or 
personal reasons. not just because they 
are short on cash or their wife pokes 
them good in the eye with a broom for 
coming home drunk (urbandictionary.com)

CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF got a standing ovation at the Le Petit Theatre. ‘Echo Springs’ (the book, not the whisky) called my name as I rolled into bed. I happened to be on page 128, where Laing discusses the play. She makes much of Brick and Big Daddy’s use of the word ‘mendacity’.

Mendacious: given to or characterized 
by deception or falsehood or divergence 
from absolute truth. (m-w.com)

As I closed the curtains on the last night in that buoyant, textured city, I thought about the great writers and the possible reasons they drank. I’m grateful for their work, but what is the cost? Did the writing life lead to alcohol or the alcohol lay ground for unrestrained writing? Laing doesn’t overanalyze, tie the book’s ending in a ‘this is what it all means‘  bow, or preach, leaving me impressed and disappointed at the same time. She very indirectly points to faith and community as the path to a connected, reverent, surrendered teetotaling life.

If Tennessee Williams himself read the book today, I believe he would detect the ‘stench of mendacity’ in the esteemed writers’ interpersonal dramas. Were they haunted by the fake or deceptive intentions, the mendacity, of others? Haunted by their own mendacity and searching for the opposite on the page? Perhaps when they weren’t writing and drinking, they should have sought out the opposite of mendacity. Perhaps they couldn’t find it, because it’s not found in books, it’s from the gut. So says Colbert.

It’s … truthiness.

Truthiness (noun): Merriam-Webster 
2006 word of the year. Truth that 
comes from the gut, not books. A 
quality characterizing a "truth" that 
a person making an argument or assertion 
claims to know intuitively 'from the gut' 
or because it ‘feels right’ without regard 
to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, 
or facts. 


© Robyn T. Murphy

1 Comment

  1. Fabulous post. I love Teneesee Williams and New Orleans will always be home to me. I know the French quarter doesntn always smell of beignets and chikory . Love your use of horse pee and rotten bananas. Really made me laugh. I just stopped by from the challenge to say hi.

    Melissa Sugar
    Twitter @msugar13

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