"I particularly like New York on hot summer nights when all the ... uh, superfluous people are off the streets." Those were, I think, the first words Tennessee addressed to me; then the foggy blue eyes blinked, and a nervous chuckle filled the moment's silence before I said whatever I said.This is the beginning sentence of "Some Memories of the Glorious Bird and Earlier Self," Gore Vidal's essay mingling a review of Tennessee Williams's Memoirs with a gushing homage to one of America's greatest playwrights and a self-congratulatory treatment of his own literary achievements. Vidal serves up several rhetorical devices here:
- He establishes Williams's sophistication by choosing particularly as opposed to especially or most.
- He moves the reader along a bit quicker by dropping the comma between hot and summer, leaving hot to describe summer nights, and not to mean hot nights and summer nights.
- He makes Williams appear simultaneously thoughtful and natural by including the ellipsis and filler (... uh).
- He creates an immediate enigma with superfluous, which both equivocates about the superfluous people in the speaker's disposition and conjures humorously ambiguous images of who the non-superfluous people are.
- He adds I think as a playful way of assuring his readers that he is taking literary license in directly quoting Williams.
- He closes with before I said whatever I said as an uncharacteristically humble way of shedding more light on his subject and less on himself.