Carson McCullers was born in Columbus, GA in 1917. Considered one of the greatest American writers of the 20th Century, her work is being celebrated throughout the world in her Centennial year of 2017 for the extraordinary influence her writing has had on the many generations of writers who have followed in her footsteps. Her groundbreaking work in her first novel, “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter”, established her, at the age of 22, as a unique voice in literature. She examined the psychology of lonely, isolated characters, and depicted them with deep empathy. Her later novels included “Reflections in a Golden Eye”, which was made into a film directed by John Huston starring Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor, “A Member of the Wedding”, adapted to both a film and a play on Broadway which launched the career of a young Julie Harris, “The Ballad
of a Sad Café”, adapted into a play by Edward Albee and “The Clock Without Hands”. Her remarkable short stories, essays and poems have been published under the title “Collected Works” and recently re-issued by the Library of America. In a recent New Yorker essay Sarah Schulman wrote “McCullers had an almost singular ability to humanize any kind of person, many of whom had never appeared in American literature before she created them.” The Carson McCullers Center for Writing and Music is located at Columbus State University in Columbus, GA and has recently acquired the house in Nyack, NY where Carson lived for the last 20 years of her life. Due to a childhood illness that compromised McCullers health throughout her life, she died in 1967 at the age of 50. She wrote the story “A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.” at the age of 25.
“The most impressive aspect of [her work] is the astonishing compassion that enables a white writer, for the first time in Southern fiction, to handle Negro characters with as much ease and justice as those of her own race. This cannot be accounted for stylistically or politically; it seems to stem from an attitude toward life which enables Mrs. McCullers to rise above the pressures of her environment and embrace white and black humanity in one sweep of apprehension and tenderness.”
- Richard Wright, in an early review of McCullers’s first novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
“McCullers had an almost singular ability to humanize any kind of person, many of whom had never appeared in American literature before she created them.”
- Sarah Schulman in an essay she wrote for The New Yorker (October 21, 2016) entitled “White Writer”
When We Are Lost
Poem by Carson McCullers
When we are lost what image tells?
Nothing resembles nothing. Yet nothing
Is not blank. It is configured Hell:
Of noticed clocks on winter afternoons,
Demanding furniture. All unrelated
And with air between.
The terror. Is it of Space, of Time?
Or the joined trickery of both conceptions?
To the lost, transfixed among the self-inflicted ruins,
All that is non-air (if this indeed is not deception)
Is agony immobilized. While Time,
The endless idiot, runs screaming round the world.