As a high school sophomore, I was assigned the play, “The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams. It instantly appealed to me because it seemed fitting that a play about a fragile girl should be told in a dim, memory-like, unrealistic way. It was the beginning of my obsession with memory. Years later, the concept of memory as time travel began to lodge itself in my mind, and it has been a constant philosophical question I’ve had ever since.
I have always been an extremely nostalgic person. Except for a great loss that terminated my childhood innocence at age 13, I had an idyllic childhood. Time spent at my grandparents’ house on a weekly basic, sometimes more frequently than that. Time spent in the mountains camping, or staying at cabins. A daily existence rife with reading magical stories and most days spent outdoors with very imaginative friends playing in worlds entirely made up inside of our minds. So, when I was introduced to this play in high school, I was thrilled to encounter an artist that had been dabbling in the subject of memory. Eventually, after college, I started to read Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time,” (and have been ever since, without yet finishing, of course,) as well as Virginia Woolf’s “The Waves,” and “Mrs. Dalloway.” I have to admit: I was disturbed by the concept that our memories are re-created each time we remember them, re-shaping the actual memory. It made me realize that I have probably memorialized certain memories into mythic proportions, and made them touchstones I can pull out like videos in my mind. At first, it concerned me that, perhaps, not all of my memories are “true.” The longer I sat with this concept, however, the more fascinating it has become to me. And then, I started reading time travel stories, and here I am today. I don’t have any grand conclusions about any of this, but I named my blog after the phrase from Tennessee Williams’ play in homage to the artist that sparked this philosophical question in my life.
In the production notes, Tennessee Williams writes the stage direction to have a screen between the front room and dining room, with images and legends being projected upon it from behind, therefore “the legend or image upon the screen will strengthen the effect of what is merely allusion in the writing.”
Laura: I-don’t suppose-you remember me-at all?
Jim [smiling doubtfully]: You know I have an idea I’ve seen you before. I had that idea as soon as you opened the door. It seemed almost like I was about to remember your name. But the name that I started to call you-wasn’t a name! And so I stopped myself before I said it.
Laura: Wasn’t it-Blue Roses?
Jim [springing up, grinning]: Blue Roses! My gosh, yes-Blue Roses! That’s what I had on my tongue when you opened the door! Isn’t it funny what tricks memory plays? I didn’t connect you with high school somehow or other. But that’s where it was; it was high school. I didn’t even know you…Gosh, I”m sorry.
Laura: I didn’t expect you to. ….
Jim: Aw, yes. I’ve placed you now!… How was it that I got started calling you that?
Laura: I was out of school a little while with pleurosis. When I came back you asked me what was the matter. I said I had pleurosis-you thought I said Blue Roses. That’s what you always called me after that!
The scene is memory and is therefore nonrealistic. Memory takes a lot of poetic license. It omits some details: others are exaggerated, according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominantly in the heart. The interior is therefore rather dim and poetic.” Tom addresses the audience as a narrator saying things like, “I give you the truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion…I turn back time…The play is memory. Being a memory play, it is dimly lighted, it is sentimental, it is not realistic.”