Monday, August 1, 2011

The Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer


The Venable Venus Flytrap (inspired by Tennessee Williams’ 1958 play, Suddenly Last Summer and by Gore Vidal and Tennessee Williams’ screenplay for the 1959 film of the same name) – Gold-leafed frame; gold-leafed gothic arches; faux Venus flytrap plant; dried moss; dried leaves and branches; dried white rose; genuine desiccated ladybug; genuine desiccated leaf mimic insect; rusted T-pins; sea shells; peacock feather; rusted nails; colour print of a painting of St. Sebastian by Giovanni Antonio Bazzi; colour print of palm fronds; altered art pieces—Dr. John Cukrowicz business card, Violet Venable note, front page ripped from “Poem of Summer, 1935” notebook, postcard from Cabeza de Lobo, lobotomy diagram

“My son, Sebastian and I constructed our days. We would carve each day like a piece of sculpture, leaving behind us a trail of days like a gallery of sculpture until suddenly, last summer…”

So said Mrs. Violet Venable.

Summer.

A time of scorching heat and oppressive humidity, of somnolent, sun-drenched days and sultry, sleepless nights. A season when the crime rate, the murder rate, the suicide rate skyrocket from coast to coast. Tempers flare. Rage seethes. A madness bubbles neath the skin, like hot asphalt; everybody seeking an escape.

The wealthy, widowed, aged Southern Belle, Mrs. Violet Venable sought hers in the mammoth glass-framed conservatory her late, lamented son, Sebastian, created as a sanctuary, modeled after Michelangelo’s “Dawn of Creation,” a temple to a miasma of lurid, fetid, carnivorous flora—his favorite, his prized Venus flytrap, a work of nature that requires the flesh, the blood, the very essence of the living to survive—much like Mrs. Venable herself.

It’s summer, 1937.

The setting, Lions View State Asylum in New Orleans, Louisiana—a grand, forbidding madhouse, currently host to an irritating summertime pest that Mrs. Venable would just love to swat, a bothersome, buzzing mosquito, the ant at her picnic, the stinging horsefly in her ointment—her niece, Catherine, a desperate, unstable girl Mrs. Venable wants silenced, at any cost. You see, Catherine has been spreading stories, sordid, scandalous untruths, completely obscene lies, about the venerated Venable, Sebastian, the way he lived, the way he died. And what better way to silence an obvious lunatic than with the generous offer of a full frontal lobotomy—a knife to the brain that brings peace and quiet to all.

And just what are those lies poor Catherine is spreading?

Seems Sebastian died under awfully mysterious, awfully bizarre, awfully awful circumstances while vacationing on Cabeza de Lobo, in the Encantadas, and nobody knows exactly how Sebastian met his end—except Catherine, who was there…

Who saw it all.

And soon the festering truth oozes forth, bursting in the overheated, almost incestuous air Mrs. Venable breathes, each breath taken in idolization of her adored offspring, as she recalls them as being, not a mother and a son, but a famous couple, saying:

“People didn’t speak of Sebastian and his mother or Mrs. Venable and her son, they said ‘Sebastian and Violet, Violet and Sebastian are staying at the Lido, they're staying at the Ritz in Madrid. Sebastian and Violet, Violet and Sebastian have taken a house at Biarritz for the season’, and every appearance, every time we appeared, attention was centered on us! - everyone else! Eclipsed!"

Always Sebastian.

Saint Sebastian.

The exalted image of gilded, virile youth shot through with arrows.

But Catherine's image of her cousin Sebastian differs significantly from that of his mother’s. To Catherine he was certainly a martyr but hardly a saint, he was someone who used people. Appears Sebastian was shy—just a tiny bit closeted—and he needed first his mother and then the younger, more seductive Catherine, “as bait” to meet people and to make contacts—to procure, to satisfy his cravings for young male flesh. To Sebastian, his victims existed only for his gratification, his nature much like the life-sucking greenery of his garden. “Blondes were next on the menu,” Catherine confessed. “He was fed up with the dark ones and was famished for blondes....that’s how he talked about people, as if they were - items on a menu. – ‘That one’s delicious looking, that one is appetizing’...”

And, a fate would have it, that’s precisely how Sebastian got his just desserts – by being devoured, literally, by the very boys that he had fed upon, himself.

The truth told, Catherine was spared her brain butchering, and Aunt Violet?

Well, she was left with the one thing that mattered the most to her—her son.

Or, at least his memory, as her brain devoured itself.

“Oh, Sebastian, what a lovely summer it’s been. Just the two of us. Sebastian and Violet. Violet and Sebastian. Just the way it’s always going to be. Oh, we are lucky, my darling, to have one another and need no one else ever.”

So…

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
You'll wish that summer could always be here

You'll wish that summer could always be here
You'll wish that summer could always be here

You’ll wish that summer…