Carson McCullers

Carson McCullers

Carson McCullers (February 19, 1917 – September 29, 1967) was an American writer. She wrote novels, short stories, and two plays, as well as essays and some poetry. Her first novel "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" explores the spiritual isolation of misfits and outcasts of the South. Her other novels have similar themes and are all set in the South.

Early life

She was born Lula Carson Smith in Columbus, Georgia in 1917 of middle class parentage. Her mother was the granddaughter of a plantation owner and Confederate War hero. Her father, similar to Wilbur Kelly in "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter", was a well-to-do watchmaker and jeweler of French Huguenot extraction. From the age of five she took piano lessons, and at the age of 15 she received a typewriter from her father.

Two years later she was sent to the Juilliard School of Music in New York City to study piano, but never attended the school, having lost the money set aside for her tuition. McCullers worked in menial jobs and studied creative writing under Texas writer Dorothy Scarborough at night classes at Columbia University and Washington Square College of New York University. She decided to become a writer and published in 1936 an autobiographical piece, "Wunderkind", in Story magazine. It depicted a musical prodigy's failure and adolescent insecurity and also appears in "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" collection.

Marriage and career

In 1935 she moved to North Carolina, and in 1937 she married a soldier and struggling writer, Reeves McCullers. There she wrote her first novel, "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter", in the Southern Gothic tradition. The title, suggested by McCullers's editor, was taken from Fiona MacLeod's poem 'The Lonely Hunter'. The novel itself was interpreted as an anti-fascist book. Altogether she published eight books. "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" (1940), written at the age of twenty-three, "Reflections in a Golden Eye" (1941) and "The Member of the Wedding" (1946), are the most well-known. The novella "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" (1951) also depicts loneliness and the pain of unrequited love. She was an alumna of Yaddo in Saratoga, New York.

"The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" was filmed in 1968 with Alan Arkin in the lead role. "Reflections in a Golden Eye" was directed by John Huston (1967), starring Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor. Some of the film was shot in New York City and on Long Island, where Huston was permitted to use an abandoned Army installation. Many of the interiors and some of the exteriors were done in Italy. "I first met Carson McCullers during the war when I was visiting Paulette Goddard and Burgess Meredith in upstate New York," said Huston in "An Open Book" (1980). "Carson lived nearby, and one day when Buzz and I were out for a walk she hailed us from her doorway. She was then in her early twenties, and had already suffered the first of a series of strokes. I remember her as a fragile thing with great shining eyes, and a tremor in her hand as she placed it in mine. It wasn't palsy, rather a quiver of animal timidity. But there was nothing timid or frail about the manner in which Carson McCullers faced life. And as her afflictions multiplied, she only grew stronger."

Failed marriage and emotional struggles

McCullers's marriage was unsuccessful, with both parties having homosexual relationships; Carson and Reeves separated in 1940 and divorced in 1941. After she separated from Reeves, she moved to New York to live with George Davis, the editor of "Harper's Bazaar". In Brooklyn, she became a member of the art commune February House. Among their friends were W. H. Auden, Benjamin Britten, and Paul and Jane Bowles. After World War II, Carson lived mostly in Paris. Her close friends during these years included Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams.

In 1945, Carson and Reeves McCullers remarried. Three years later, she attempted suicide while depressed. In 1953, Reeves tried to convince her to commit suicide with him, but she fled. [Dews, Carlos, [ Carson McCullers (1917-1967)] , "The New Georgia Encyclopedia," November 7, 2005.] After Carson left, Reeves killed himself in their Paris hotel with an overdose of sleeping pills. Her bittersweet play, "The Square Root of Wonderful" (1957), was an attempt to examine these traumatic experiences. "The Member of the Wedding" (1946) describes the feelings of a young girl at her brother's wedding. The Broadway production of the novel had a successful run in 1950–51 and was produced by the Young Vic in London in September 2007.

McCullers suffered throughout her life from several illnesses and from alcoholism — she had contracted rheumatic fever at the age of fifteen and suffered from strokes since her youth. By the age of 31, her left side was entirely paralyzed. She died in Nyack, New York, on September 29, 1967, after a brain hemorrhage and the resultant stroke. She is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Nyack, where also is buried noted modernist painter Edward Hopper. McCullers dictated her unfinished autobiography, "Illumination and Night Glare" (1999), during her final months.


:"Miss McCullers and perhaps Mr. Faulkner are the only writers since the death of D. H. Lawrence with an original poetic sensibility. I prefer Miss McCullers to Mr. Faulkner because she writes more clearly; I prefer her to D. H. Lawrence because she has no message." – Graham Greene

:"Moving, yes, but a minor author. And broken by illness at such a young age." – Arthur Miller

Although McCullers's is often described as "Southern Gothic," she produced her famous works after leaving the South. Her eccentric characters suffer from loneliness that is interpreted with deep empathy. In a discussion with the Irish critic and writer Terence de Vere White she said: "Writing, for me, is a search for God." Gore Vidal praised her work as "one of the few satisfying achievements of our second-rate culture." Other critics have variously detected tragicomic or political elements in her writing.

Cultural References

McCullers narration of "The Member of the Wedding" was used by Jarvis Cocker on his debut album, "Jarvis". It forms the introduction to the song "Big Julie" and consists of an edited (or slightly mangled) version of the opening lines of the book: :"It happened that green and crazy summer. It was a summer when for a long time she had not been a member. She belonged to no club and she was a member of nothing in the world. And she was afraid."

Sue Denim (of "Robots in Disguise") lists Carson McCullers under her "loves and influences" on the "Robots"' MySpace page, and, in her solo project Sue and the Unicorn, Denim references McCullers along with other writers in the song "For JT and Carson and Emily."

The Anniversary, a Kansas City band who released two albums through Vagrant Records, titled a song "Heart is a Lonely Hunter" on their album Designing a Nervous Breakdown.

Nanci Griffith's album "Clock Without Hands" is, in part, inspired by McCullers' novel.

Madonna refers to The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter in a song called ¨Love Tried To Welcome Me¨ on her album "Bedtime Stories".

"The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" is referred to in the movie "A Love Song for Bobby Long"; the main character's mother always carried the novel with her and read it over and over again.

"The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" is the name of a song by the British band The Duke Spirit.



*"The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" (1940)
*"Reflections in a Golden Eye" (1941)
*"The Member of the Wedding" (1946)
*"Clock Without Hands" (1961)

Other works

*"The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" (1951), a short story collection comprising:
** a novella of the same title, later made into a Merchant Ivory Film,
**"Wunderkind" - ("Story", 1936)
**"The Jockey" - ("The New Yorker", 1941)
**"Madame Zilensky and the King of Finland" - ("The New Yorker", 1941)
**"The Sourner" - ("Mademoiselle", 1950)
**"A Domestic Dilemma" - ("New York Post magazine section", 1941)
**"A Tree, a Rock, a Cloud" - ("Harper's Bazaar", 1942)
*"The Square Root of Wonderful" (1958), a play.
*"Sweet as a Pickle and Clean as a Pig" (1964), a collection of poems.
*"The Mortgaged Heart" (1972), a posthumous collection of writings, edited by her sister Rita.
*"Illumination and Night Glare" (1999), her unfinished autobiography, published nearly 30 years after her death.


*"Complete Novels", Carlos L. Dews, ed. (New York: [ The Library of America] , 2001) ISBN 978-1-93108203-7.


External links

* [ The Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians]
* [ The Carson McCullers Project]
* Two different critical views of McCullers:
** [ The Tragicomic Vision in the Novels of Carson McCullers]
** [ Marxism in Carson McCullers' "Strangled South"]
* [ Carson McCullers: A Life]
* [ Online text of "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter"]
* [ Entry in the New Georgia Encyclopedia]
* [ Online text of "The Member of the Wedding"]
* [ Online text of "Reflections in a Golden Eye"]

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См. также в других словарях:

  • Carson McCullers — Carson McCullers, 31. Juli 1959 Fotografie von Carl van Vechten, aus der Van Vechten Collection der Library of Congress Carson McCullers [ˈkɑːɹsn̩ məˈkʌlɚz] (* 19. Februar 1917 in Columbus, Georgia; †  …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Carson McCullers — en 1959, photographiée par Carl Van Vechten Nom de naissance Lula Carson Smith …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Carson McCullers — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Lula Carson Smith (Columbus, Georgia; 19 de febrero de 1917 – Nyack, Nueva York; 29 de septiembre de 1967), conocida como Carson McCullers, fue una escritora estadounidense. Su ficción explora el aislamiento… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Carson McCullers — noun United States novelist (1917 1967) • Syn: ↑McCullers, ↑Carson Smith McCullers • Instance Hypernyms: ↑writer, ↑author * * * Carson McCullers [ …   Useful english dictionary

  • Carson McCullers — ➡ McCullers * * * …   Universalium

  • Carson McCullers — n. (1917 1967, born Lula Carson Smith), U.S. novelist …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Carson Mc Cullers — Carson McCullers Carson McCullers Carson McCullers en 1959, photographiée par Carl Van Vechten Nom de naissance …   Wikipédia en Français

  • MCCULLERS (C.) — MCCULLERS CARSON (1917 1967) Lorsqu’elle publia, en 1940, Le cœur est un chasseur solitaire , Carson McCullers avait vingt trois ans et «l’air d’une toute jeune fille montée en graine, avec ses petits bas rouges au dessous des genoux, son long… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • McCullers — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Carson McCullers (1917–1967), US amerikanische Schriftstellerin Michael McCullers (* 1971), US amerikanischer Drehbuchautor Diese Seite ist eine Begriffsklärung zur Unterscheidung mehrerer mit demselben …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Carson (given name) — Carson is a given name, and may refer to: *Carson Daly *Carson Kressley *J. Carson Mark *Carson McCullers *Carson K. Miller *Carson Palmer *Carson Robison, American country music singer and songwriter;Fictional persons *Carson Beckett, character… …   Wikipedia

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