16 October 2009

Literary Landmarks of the Southern United States, #2 Columbus, Georgia: Carson McCullers

Carson McCuller's home in Stark Avenue in her youth. The sign reads:

'Carson McCullers 1917–1967: The family of author Carson McCullers moved to this house in 1927. Here Lula Carson Smith spent her formative years 10–17 and here she began to write, putting on shows in the two sitting rooms, using the sliding doors as curtains and drafting brother Lamar and sister Rita as actors. Shows grew into plays, stories and novels. She left to study writing in New York in 1934. When a teacher told her that the best stories can be found in one's own back yard, her "green arcade" of stories drew her home again. In the summer of 1935 she met James Reeves McCullers, Jr., whom she married in the garden here in Sept., 1937. They moved to North Carolina where the young author completed her first novel The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. During World War II, with Reeves overseas, Carson lived in New York but often returned home to work and rest. She liked to sit in the kitchen, absorbing its warmth, the aroma of food cooking and the conversation of the cook. In her front bedroom she kept her piano and the typewriter where she worked on her novel, and later prize-winning play, The Member of the wedding. After the death of her father in 1944, Carson and her mother made their home in Nyack, N.Y.'

I've read almost all of McCuller's work and enjoyed everything, perhaps particularly with The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940) and The Member of the Wedding (1946). The most striking theme of McCullers for me is the extreme alienation of her young female protagonists, their rebellion against prevailing female constructs to the extent that they merge with male constructs.

Homosexuality is not strongly pronounced, of course, but strongly hinted at.

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