Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I fell in love with Carson McCullers when I was a boy. Now that I'm old and cranky I love her in a way completely different. And I realise that not a bit of it makes any difference to Carson McCullers or any other girl, nor should it. I'm sure Carson McCullers would have loved me, not because I love her but because she would have loved me. And I think we two would have been fast friends for the duration. Unlike my cat who loved me because I loved him, Carson McCullers would love because she does.

It's a matter of privacy. Not the privacy of my secret details, which are on display in public much of the time, and they don't matter anyway. The privacy is in the ownership and exercise of ones own life. When her choice is private, then her judgements have value and importance. Every woman has the innate private right to live and die like Carson McCullers. And within the bounds of free reciprocity, all have the right to value that as it is. If she, and if I, then we. Anything else is, at best, a relationship with a Human being that isn't as valuable as that of my relationship with my cat. And if that's our relationship with people, we aren't very Human at all.

1917: Lula Carson Smith is born on February 19 at 423 Thirteenth Street in Columbus, Georgia, the first child of Lamar and Marguerite Waters Smith.

1926: Lula Carson begins piano lessons at age ten.

1930: Upon her return from a visit to her aunt and uncle, she drops the use of Lula from her double name. She decides to become a concert pianist and begins piano lessons with Mrs. Albert S. J. Tucker.

1932: As a senior in high school, she suffers from rheumatic fever, which is thought later to have contributed to her crippling strokes in life. She announces to her friend Helen Jackson that she has decided to become a writer instead of a concert pianist.

1933: Carson graduates from Columbus High School and begins to read the works of Dostoevski, Chekhov, Tolstoy, and O'Neill. She has begun writing plays (in which she casts her brother and sister), the first of which is called The Faucet. She writes her first story called "Sucker," which she tries unsuccessfully to sell.

1934: Carson leaves Savannah, Georgia at age seventeen and travels to New York City, where she enrolls in creative writing courses at Columbia University.

1935: Carson meets James Reeves McCullers, Jr. through her friend Edwin Peacock.

1936: Her first published story, "Wunderkind," appears in Story magazine. She develops the idea for The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter while recuperating from a serious illness.

1937: On September 20, Carson (age twenty) and Reeves (age twenty-four) are married in the home of mutual friends. They return to Charlotte, North Carolina and move into Reeves's apartment. Carson begins work on her first novel.

1939: Carson finishes her first novel in April and entitles it The Mute. She writes a second novel entitled Reflections in a Golden Eye. She begins conceiving the plot for The Member of the Wedding.

1940: On June 4, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (formerly called The Mute) is published by Houghton Mifflin. On August 14, she attends the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in Middlebury, Vermont and meets Louis Untermeyer and Eudora Welty. Reflections in a Golden Eye is published in two parts in October and November in Harper's Bazaar for five hundred dollars. Carson is ill for most of the winter.

1941: In February, Carson is stricken with impaired vision, stabbing head pains, and partial paralysis. She visits the Yaddo Artists' Colony in Saratoga Springs and meets Katherine Anne Porter and Newton Arvin. At Yaddo, she writes The Ballad of the Sad Café. She initiates divorce proceedings against Reeves. Her first published poem, "The Twisted Trinity," appears in Decision. She suffers her second major illness of the year with pleurisy, strep throat, and double pneumonia.

1942: On March 24, Carson is awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Though she wants to take her prize money and write in Mexico, her poor health prevents her.

1944: Carson suffers a severe nervous attack in addition to influenza and pleurisy. Her father dies in August of a heart attack.

1945: On March 19, Carson and Reeves remarry in New City, New York.

1946: Houghton Mifflin publishes The Member of the Wedding on March 19. She receives her second Guggenheim Fellowship on April 15.

1947: Carson suffers a serious stroke in August and another stroke in November which paralyzes her left side.

1948: In March, Carson attempts suicide and is hospitalized in Manhattan. In the summer and the fall, she adapts and revises The Member of the Wedding into a play while in Nantucket with Tennessee Williams.

1950: On January 5, The Member of the Wedding opens at the Empire Theatre on Broadway. It wins the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for the best play of the season.

1951: Houghton Mifflin publishes The Ballad of the Sad Café.

1953: Carson and Reeves experience severe marital problems. Reeves attempts suicide and tries to convince Carson into committing a double suicide. She flees to France in fear of her life. On November 19, Reeves kills himself in a Paris hotel.

1955: Carson travels with Tennessee Williams to Key West in April to work on three manuscripts: the dramatization of The Ballad of the Sad Café, The Square Root of Wonderful, and Clock Without Hands. On June 10, her mother dies unexpectedly and this loss utterly devastates Carson. She works frenetically on The Square Root of Wonderful to cope with her mother's death.

1957: The Square Root of Wonderful opens on October 30 on Broadway but closes prematurely after forty-five performances. Carson suffers acute depression over the premature closing of the play.

1959: Carson becomes unable to work on her manuscripts like Clock Without Hands and the musical adaptation of The Ballad of the Sad Café so she begins writing children's verse.

1961: Clock Without Hands is published by Houghton Mifflin on September 18.

1962: By 1962, Carson spends most of her time in a wheelchair. She does little writing in 1962 because of her health. She undergoes an operation to remove a cancerous right breast on June 6. Surgery is also performed on every major joint of her paralyzed left hand.

1964: In the spring, Carson breaks her right hip and shatters her left elbow. Her collection of children's verses, Sweet as a Pickle, Clean as a Pig is published by Houghton Mifflin on November 1. She signs her last will and testament on November 8.

1966: Thomas Ryan completes his screen script of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and reads it to Carson. She works with Mary Rodgers on adapting The Member of the Wedding into a musical.

1967: On April 30, Carson is named winner of the 1966 Henry Bellamann Award, a one-thousand-dollar grant recognizing her "outstanding contribution to literature." On August 15, she suffers her final stroke, a massive brain hemorrhage, and lies comatose for forty-seven days. Carson McCullers dies on September 29 and is buried on October 3 in Oak Hill Cemetery, on the bank of the Hudson River.

American author who examined the psychology of lonely, isolated people. McCullers published only eight books. Her best known novels are THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER 1940), written at the age of twenty-two, and REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE (1942), set in a military base. Both of the books have been filmed. Although McCullers depicted homosexual characters and she has female lover, the theme of homosexuality is placed in a wider context of alienation and dislocation.


Lula Carson Smith (Carson McCullers) was born in Columbus, Georgia, as the daughter of a well-to-do watchmaker and jeweller of French Hugenot 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 moved to New York to study piano at Julliard School of Music, but never attended the school - she managed to lose the money set aside for her tuition. McCullers worked in menial jobs and devoted herself to writing. She studied creative writing at Columbia and New York universities and published in 1936 an autobiographical piece, 'Wunderkind', in Story magazine. It depicted a musical prodigy's failure and adolescent insecurity.

In 1937 she married Reeves McCullers, a failed author. Before the wedding she him told her parents that she did not want to marry him until she first had experienced sex with him. "The sexual experience was not like D.H. Lawrence," she later said. "No grand explosions or colored lights, but it gave me a chance to know Reeves better, and really learn to love him." They moved to North Caroline, living there for two years. During this time she wrote The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, a novel in the Southern Gothic tradition. ...

[John Huston writes:] "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 series of strokes that made her an invalid before she was thirty. 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 affections multiplied, she only grew stronger."

McCullers's marriage turned out to be unlucky. They both had homosexual relationships and separated in 1940. She moved to New York to live with George Davis, the editor of Harper's Bazaar. In Brooklyn McCullers became a member of the art commune February House. Among their friends were W.H. Auden, Paul and Jane Bowles, and the striptease artiste Gipsy Rose Lee. After World War II McCullers lived mostly in Paris. Her close friends during these years included Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams.

In 1945 McCullers remarried with Reeves. Three years later she attempted suicide under depression. Reeves killed himself in a Paris hotel in 1953 with an overdose of sleeping pills. McCullers's bitter-sweet play THE SQUARE ROOT OF WONDERFUL (1958) was an attempt to examine these traumatic experiences. THE MEMBER OF THE WEDDING (1946) described the feelings of a young girl at her brother's wedding. The Broadway production of the novel had a successful run in 1950-51.

Carson McCullers suffered throughout her life from several illnesses - she had contracted rheumatic fever at the age of fifteen and a series of strokes left her a virtual invalid in her early 30's. She died in New York on September 29, 1967, after a stroke and a resultant brain haemorrhage.



We have a duty to accept the rights and responsibilities of other, and to let them come and go as they will. To do so is, according to me, of value to all. In our time it means combatting Islam. When this battle's fought and won there will be other battles for those who come after us. We can fight this battle to free all the girls who might have loved us if only they did. And if we win and if they chooose, then us; and if we win and they choose others, then we'll know they and we and us are open and closed to others freely.

Carson and I, we would have hit on all the girls.


Stogie said...

Hmm, you've intrigued me as to this author. I once read the autobiography of a private detective named Josiah Thompson, called "Gumshoe: Reflections in a Private Eye." Now I see he was borrowing from Carson's title, "Reflections in a Golden Eye."

For some nice pictures of Carson and her final resting place, visit this link.

dag said...

She's a writer I would have wanted to hang out with as a friend. I don't know how anyone could have put up with Virginia Wolfe for more than a minute, and Sylvia Plath wouldn't have been anyone I'd like either. I met Tennessee Williams once, briefly, but I wasn't keen on him either. It's funny when I think about it how few writers I actually like being around. One, though, he was a good friend. Maybe I loved him because he was so much like Carson McCullers right up to the moment he killed himself.

No, I loved my friend like a brother because he was a great guy in himself. What about him? I don't know. He was truly fucked-up, and he died. He did that because he wanted to. Life's a mystery to me.

t-ham said...

"..buried at Oak Hill Cemetary"

I live a few miles up the road from there. It is in the village of Nyack, NY. A truly classic type of cemetary. I did a remodel of the kitchen for the cemetary superintendant's house. He spent afternoons entertaining me with stories of the place. It has ghosts. He has seen "The Young Woman". He is a deep and thoughtful man, not one taken to flightiness.

The cemetary is full of the known and unknown, folks have been bringing their loved ones here for centuries, it is also a catalog of architecture. It isn't the type of cemetary, dead grass waving and headstones tilted, that sits alone, unvisited, and silent. It is not cold and sad, but warm and, well, welcoming. It is well tended, often visited, formally toured. You could do far worse than end up there.

John Sobieski said...

McCullers life was frenetic and tragic. It appears to me that so many authors suffer greatly in their life. They always seem to be unable to enjoy their success beyond a fleeting moment.

Stogie said...

Yes, and she was such a lovely woman. What a shame she suffered from such poor health and died way too young. I intend to read her books. Unless anyone has another suggestion, I'll start with "Reflections in a Golden Eye."

dag said...

I had no idea what I was doing when I posted that picture of Carson McCullers. It didn't seem to be my idea at all, and I thought of taking it down. As Stogie points out, sometimes I think too much. It stayed on better authority than mine. The proof of that is your comments above.

Stogie said...

Okay Dag, you did good, giving culture to the great unwashed! I ordered both "The Heart is a Hungry Hunter" and "Reflections in a Golden Eye" from

Thanks for introducing me to this author.

Anonymous said...

Intellectualizing and rationalizing theories about the consequences of colonialization and empires is a fantastic mental excercise. Thanks to the monitor for filtering such a coherent collection of blog entries which present an elite view of the world where the needs of the empire and capitalism are justified and outrage at the blowback by the exploited is eloquently stated. This entry will never make it onto this one man show but hey good job at finding people who are exactly like you in the quest to conquer the world and actually blame the indigenous as you genocide them. You could probably work for the Israeli public relations or time travel back to our own days of rationalizing that the only good Indian is a dead one.

dag said...

You, dear anonymous, likely meant to post your comment under a different post, perhaps one in which I advocate colonialism in our Modern age. Regardless of where you place it, yes, you are certainly welcome to do so, no censorship here for just some arbitrary non-reason. You can and may write as you please, and having done so above you show you have little if any regard for those you seem to be advocating the rights of. Lay off the cliches for a day and try instead thinking about what the world is and how others relate to it before you post here again. Either way, whether you think independently or not, you're welcome to express other people's deepest cliches here as you will.