We have to discuss the plot here, so total spoilers are included here.Forgive the blunt language here, but this seems to be a story about very confused gay people living in a teeny town in the back of beyond Please note every other novel is about confused straight people There is no stigma in being confused But these Sad Caf types are really confused We begin with Amelia Evans, 6 feet 2 inches, powerfully built, likes to wear men s clothing and smokes a pipe, doesn t like men I was getting the picture, this woman is a lesbian Carson McCullers leaves that implied but unsaid, but you couldn t imply it any harder without breaking your typewriter That said, she only has relationships with men But they aren t what is generally meant by the word So she has a ten day marriage with a guy named Marvin Macy, a handsome bad ass mean minded varmint of a rattlesnake He finds out after they get married that she doesn t take kindly to being touched A groom is in a sorry fix when he is unable to bring his well beloved bride to bed with him, and when the whole town knows it.It could be that Marvin is a closet case, marrying another closet case He s a most handsome guy and he falls for the most mannish woman in the county Hmmm Car crash marriages like this pop up in Reflections in a Golden Eye she had a such a great way with titles and indeed in Carson s own crazy life.Anyway, he winds up in prison for ten years, leaving Amelia contentedly alone until a grotesque figure lurches into town, a four foot tall hunchback her word, her word called Lymon who claims to be her cousin What do you know, she likes him she even loves him, to the amazement of all, and together they transform the general goods store she runs into the caf of the title, and everyone has a nice time drinking bootleg and speculating on what goes on upstairs until with the inevitability of High Noon Marvin gets released and comes back to town to haunt everybody with black clouds of barely held back violence.What happens then is really pretty weird In order to clear the air, Amelia and Marvin, having circled each other and growled a lot, decide to have a formal boxing match, with the public invited.Well, that is one way to sort out a simmering dispute Usually not the way it s done between married people The boxing for most couples is confined to the private sphere, and unhappily tends towards the Mike Tyson first round knockout This boxing match is quite different as the parties are evenly matched Eventually Amelia is just about to deliver the final victorious blow to the supine Marvin when At the instant Miss Amelia grasped the throat of Marvin Macy the hunchback sprang forward and sailed through the air as though he had grown hawk wings He landed on the broad back of Miss Amelia and clutched at her neck with his clawed little fingers Because of the hunchback the fight was won by Marvin Macy and at the end Miss Amelia lay sprawled on the floor, her arms flung outward and motionless.And then, once the crowd has left the caf , Marvin and Lymon proceed to trash the place, and they leave together, never to be seen again It turns out that the real romance was between the handsome guy and the dwarf about 20 years later a similar relationship could be seen in the movie Midnight Cowboy Maybe this is some kind of religious allegory Could be Amelia is Jesus, Marvin is the Catholic Church, and Cousin Lymon is the Protestant church I dunno, that s just off the top of my head Probably wrong. racconti il primo ed eponimo molto pi lungo degli altri in cui non c nulla di gridato, ma tutto ti si insinua nel profondo e lascia intendere che non se ne andr pi mccullers ha uno sguardo lucido e insieme ricco di umanit , e in pi scrive cos bene, cos dannatamente e misuratamente bene, che a un cuore di pastafrolla come il mio basta la schiettezza del suo stile per uscire dal libro sentendosi come uno dei personaggi marginali che lo popolano domandarsi perch quando cade la tristezza in fondo al cuore come la neve non fa ru. A Classic Work That Has Charmed Generations Of Readers, This Collection Assembles Carson McCullers S Best Stories, Including Her Beloved Novella The Ballad Of The Sad Caf A Haunting Tale Of A Human Triangle That Culminates In An Astonishing Brawl, The Novella Introduces Readers To Miss Amelia, A Formidable Southern Woman Whose Caf Serves As The Town S Gathering Place Among Other Fine Works, The Collection Also Includes Wunderkind, McCullers S First Published Story Written When She Was Only Seventeen About A Musical Prodigy Who Suddenly Realizes She Will Not Go On To Become A Great Pianist Newly Reset And Available For The First Time In A Handsome Trade Paperback Edition, The Ballad Of The Sad Caf Is A Brilliant Study Of Love And Longing From One Of The South S Finest Writers You know those authors just when you think you ve begun to catch your footing running up the landslide that is all the books and authors you want to read, someone trips you up by mentioning, I don t know, Carson McCullers, and suddenly you re all shaky clenched fists and durmurt, foiled again Well, not Johnny Carson not Daily McCullers, I know a bit about you now, and I think I could love you We have lost soul losers who keep on losing Not everyone is completely hollowed out by cyclical defeat and largely self created and perpetuated doom, but most are because get real, amIright That fork in the road Yeah, wrong way I don t even have to look up and see which way you re going, because just no Don t do that Don t worry, everybody does that at one point or another Seriously, stop it Whiskey This collection as a whole is like a panoramic view of a chipped wooden dive bar, with each story another sad sack with a heavy past clinging to his or her neck, head down, choking The once great artist, burnt out before adulthood the dissatisfied, lonely housewife who has taken to the bottle in secret the profound sadness of the pathological liar s psychosis the old drunken man who has used his obsessive meditations on one particularly acute heartbreak to figure out that humans are doing love wrong, and that they should actually first become slowly and deeply smitten with all the commonplace things around them A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud before daring to take on another human being They start at the wrong end of love They begin at the climax Can you wonder it is so miserable For me, McCullers is just the right blend of hopelessness and hope I look forward to our second date Until then, I will try my best to love wholly and small No promises. I ve noticed many folks who read and review literature on this site will namedrop other authors in a sort of Iron Chef flowery manner of description, knowing that other literary folk will instantly understand what is meant when saying this prose invokes a similar sense of spring as Lord Bigbeard With Tiny Spectacles, and a harmonious interplay of flavors identical to Oppressed In Her Time Strong Woman Author I swear every episode of Iron Chef used the spring and harmony phrases, it was like throbbing vulva or splay with that one romance novel I want to play But I haven t read enough literary greats to knowledgeably toss out names like this, so I ll go with the little I ve got Ahem McCullers slim volume of stories is reminiscent of Sherwood Anderson s wonderful Winesburg, Ohio with soul wrenching insights, grimly presented than the gentle I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, and nothing like Grunberg or Nabokov There, I m all played out.Whereas Anderson swung his wrench at all the nuts and bolts of the broken soul isolation, trampled dreams, lost reputation, lost love, lost hope, lost independence, lost passions McCullers seemed to wield her special edition lady s wrench with padded pink handle only for the love part Not that she wrote in a lesser manner, or that I could ve been able to identify Carson McCullers as female until I saw her author photo inside the covers of other editions when I was browsing, just that love is stereotypically thought of as being a womanly emotion and her decision to write only about this one topic led me to dig this hole with no way to get out because I wanted to describe a pink handled wrench to make fun of those stupid lady s toolkit that are smaller and expensive as manufacturers try to play on gender differences for a profitam I still in the hole I do sort of believe that all you need is love and the rest will follow, but I would ve liked to see what she had to say about the rest.There are a few different ways of properly tensioning high strength bolts The high strength just means a stronger type of steel with restrictions on the variability allowed in the material strength, critical with things like steel buildings and bridges where the material properties need to be reliably uniform and, well, I glossed over the bolt tensioning methods a few years back, when I had to pretend to be expert enough to inspect some repairs but I m positive the ironworkers knew I was frontin when they had to correct my lingo, sigh Let me teach you All the tensioning methods boil down to requiring a certain amount of rotation to achieve the right amount of tension Since high strength bolt material doesn t have a well defined yield point, there s no accurate way ofI think I ve lost most people here Okay, the required rotations had to be empirically calibrated forno, that s even boring You need to give the wrench a half turn of the nut Too simple moving on.The title story was the longest, a novelette or novella I wish there were word page counts for these so I could use the right word A strong unfeminine woman gave her love to her leeching hunchback cousin but then loses all when a rejected lover returns Lovely passage But though the outward facts of this love are indeed sad and ridiculous, it must be remembered that the real story was that which took place in the soul of the lover himself So who but God can be the final judge of this or any other loveFeeling than half a turn, overtensioned Wunderkind A young pianist prodigy finds she d lost whatever it was that brought emotion to her music love of music in the swirl of adolescence I was forced to take piano lessons for a long time after losing the fun so I was indifferent at best to playing, but there was this one time I finished a piece and my teacher told me I d had a very nice interpretation of it Huh I was just trying to hit the notes until the end, but I had somehow managed to vary the speed and volume in a way that sounded pleasing She could ve been throwing me a bone, because I d been playing a number of years and couldn t get past the mechanics I wondered about that for a long time, and still do, whether I really had played well or whether it was an accident, and what it would be like if I could do that deliberately What would it be like if I could do that deliberately, and then lost that ability Would it hurt Lovely passageDo you know how many children Bach had A good many Twenty some odd Well then , he could not have been so cold thenFeeling half a turn, but undertensioned somehow The Jockey The shortest and vaguest, and I found it to be the most powerful The jockey s hurt is just barely limned in narration by 3 other characters, in their exchanged words, in the description of his behaviors, but oh, his grief , a dry eyed rage pounding the air Lovely passage nothing I could pluck out Feeling half a turn, perfect Madame Zilensky and the King of Finland The head of a music department, his life simple and direct, hires a new instructor who tells outlandish tales Lovely passage Day and night she had drudged and struggled and thrown her soul into her work, and there was not much of her left over for anything else Being human, she suffered from this lack and did what she could to make up for it Through the lies, she lived vicariously The lies doubled the little of her existence that was left over from work and augmented the little rag end of her personal life. Feeling under half a turn, undertensioned The Sojourner A man who had just flown home for his father s funereal chances to meet his ex wife and sees the family and life he might have had if he d stayed with her To go through life, and then second guess A nightmare Lovely passage It was a Madonna loveliness, dependent on the family ambiance. Feeling a resentfully granted half a turn, correctly tensioned I guess Domestic Dilemma An evening in the life of a working man who has an alcoholic stay at home wife and worries about his small children A passage I disagree with Absorbed in the instant the tooth, the bath, the quarter the fluid passage of child time had borne these weighless episodes like leaves in the swift current of a shallow stream while the adult enigma was beached and forgotten on the shore. No So wrong Children remember everything They may not show it right away, they may act the way they usually do, but those shouted arguments between mommy and daddy aren t forgotten Feeling over half a turn, undertensioned A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud First you need to grow and become strong before you soar I interpret things too literally Lovely passage They start at the wrong end of love They begin at the climax Can you wonder it is so miserableFeeling maybe half a turn , I think it s correctly tensioned Literary fiction is exhausting When there are lasers or magic or talking animals, I can tune down the introspection and enjoy a story with a quick one sentence lesson thrown in entertainment Lit fic waves a wrench threateningly in my direction and forces a magnifying glass solely inward It s good, to consider oneself and place in the world, what I m going to be when I grow up, how do I view and treat others, think about situations I ve never faced but be able to have empathy for those who havethe real world can be just as bizarre but too real in a way that I unthinkingly absorb and file information At first I was feeling that MuCullers characters were outlandish than necessary until I began remembering some of the people I ve known and their misfortunes to keep the theme of the book, misfortunes with love I had this one babysitter when I was 5 who would make up and sing lullabies to her 2 babies 20 years later I saw in the newspaper that she was in jail for murdering her husband My 6th grade teacher went on to become a full time police officer and then county sheriff I saw a newspaper article last year that he was resigning in disgrace after it was discovered that he d used his office for an adulterous affair I heard about college classmate S in the news, when it was reported that he d been murdered he d been dating the ex gf of his best friend but that friend shot him and her and killed himself These are all so horrible How could I forget them But if I had these at the forefront of my thoughts, I would be crazy Crazier Visibly crazier Isn t it a survival mechanism, to forget But important to remember Lit fic s wrench to the rescue.Something less wrench ing yuk yuk next. The title novella s Miss Amelia, with her way of dressing and behaving, had me wondering at first if she might be a grown up Frankie from The Member of the Wedding , though perhaps Miss Amelia hasn t grown up, at least not in the conventional sense and unconventional is certainly the word for the story s love triangle The omniscient narrator s balladeer s riffs on the lover and the beloved had me thinking of Proust, though the straightforward prose couldn t be different from his.The main character of Wunderkind , a story written when McCullers was 17 and showing the promise that would come to fruition with her first novel, is named Frances, leading me back to Frankie, as Frances is Frankie s given name as well In Madame Zilensky and the King of Finland the former is tall, something I was starting to see as a given with McCullers females, in the same way The Jockey continues the characterization started off with Cousin Lymon in Ballad of very short males The stories set in New York The Sojourner and A Domestic Dilemma remind me of an early short story by William Maxwell called Homecoming 1938 Along with Ballad , most of these stories depict the illogical impossibility of love with its inherent loneliness the final story, A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud , offers a possible, though unlikely, solution to the universal predicament of pain filled, unrequited love. There is a dark, syrupy sway to Carson s work that I ve always been a sucker for The Ballad of the Sad Cafis faultless I devoured it She employs her signature style study on heartbreak, cruelty loneliness, as seen with The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.Set in a town that is lonesome, sad, and like a place that is far off and estranged from all other places in the world , with a striking central character Miss Amelia, whose violent abrupt marriage inspires her to adopt years of solitude the hunchback character arrives like a tornado, bringing the townsfolk Miss Amelia out of their small town slumber, to an inevitablely cruel conclusion.The other short stories are great too, but The Ballad is really a stand alone Giant. This year has primarily been a nonfiction year for me I have participated in a group nonfiction reading challenge and as such fiction books do not get my team points It has been half of a year since I picked up a novel and while I have enjoyed the nonfiction challenge and learned much from, something seems to be missing in my reading I have decided to start small by reintegrating one or two fiction pieces a month back into my reading lineup, beginning with authors who I have previously read so that there are no surprises to my reading The first such piece I selected is a novella by an American master writer Carson McCullers I have savored her classic novels and took this opportunity to read her short piece The Ballad of the Sad Cafe Like McCullers other pieces Sad Cafe takes place in a small, isolated southern town Amanda Evans is the proprietor of the town general store, and lives alone in a two room flat upstairs An independent woman, Miss Evans has no significant other to speak of and chooses to dine alone and not invite guests to her home It is during prohibition, and Evans realizes that there is money to be made by installing a still in her backyard and offering customers drinks Gradually, the store turned into a cafe with customers coming from miles around for catfish and barbecue meals Charging little to nothing for her food so that all diners would have a chance to savor it, Miss Evans cafe was an instant success That changed one day with the presence of her cousin, a humpback named Lymon Miss Evans took pity on him and invited him to live in the second of her two rooms upstairs The townspeople surmised that they were falling in love and recalled her brief, horrendous ten day marriage to Marvin Macy An orphan raised in a good home and then gone bad, Macy conquered most of the town s women and had his heart set on Evans for marriage Eventually, she agreed but had ulterior motives Like McCullers other novels, she developed a strong female protagonist in Amanda Evans as she used her wits to overcome Macy, obtaining all of his material possessions in the process Macy s true character shined through and the town under Evans leadership settled back into a regular routine, until the appearance of Lymon As in McCullers other works she writes in a steady prose that has a reader feel as though they are sitting on a front porch The story of the sad cafe could have been a family tale passed down, with McCullers telling the reader in present tense Ballad of the Sad Cafe has been a short reintroduction to fiction reading It is always a treat to read McCullers tales of rural southern communities of years past Usually there is a twist at the end to keep readers on their toes and it was no different here I have a goal to read through McCullers works in the next few years as she is a personal favorite 3.75 stars 4.5 5McCullers is one I come to for a reckoning, much as I do with Faulkner and O Connor One may bundle them up and slot them neatly under the label of Southern Gothic, but that is not a guaranteed invocation of cathedrals crazed by fecundity of both soil and symptom, an American way of the crooked cross where faith is a matter of lust and amputation While Faulkner plunges in chiaroscuro and O Connor sears in holy fire, McCullers sings in the twilight of a human soul, casting back on its years in search and always, always, coming up short She is calmer than her two compatriots, but peace does not entail redemption.These stories are short, and I am not surprised that my favorite, Wunderkind, was composed at the age of seventeen It s a common thing, the vicarious living of the parent through the child, the sapling broken before it even began along lines of another s making, for intelligence and art and college and any number of reasons but the one encompassing what it is the child actually wants, or dreams, or needs When the body ripens and the mind begins to wander beyond the closed circuit court of parental promises of wealth and fame and glory, it s no wonder that the machine begins to break But the child does not know that What a child does know is their failure is made purely out internal system of self, and one way or another, breaking out or breaking down, they will escape This is a tale that the median of youth and maturity knows, especially when one is Carson McCullers at seventeen.While that was my favorite, the rest are well worth it All are a matter of living with those insanities we humans willingly inflict, for living is a must what with self killing labeled as one of the wicked sins In the midst of souls and the relationships they wield as pitchforks, the damnation they deal is matched only by the bounty they reap, much as the sick sloth of Southern swamp and all its dead can only be graced by golden sunsets, etched into art by sprawling trees and precious to the earth than all of humanity The world bears us much as we bear our woes, a day by day of nearing and furthering reconciliation with too long a past to hope that sudden extinction would lead to instantaneous peace Some moments are of utmost beauty, some are fit to kill, and one adapts accordingly.The world may grant us sanctuary, but it does not understand us, and will not miss us when we are gone McCullers has no concrete structure for us to dwell in forever what she does for us is feel. 3.5 But the new pride that the caf brought to this town had an effect on almost everyone, even the children For in order to come to the caf you did not have to buy the dinner, or a portion of liquor McCullers tells a good story, but some are not quite enough story I wanted a bit The title story is a novella, and I really enjoyed it Generally, I m quite happy with a short vignette, but these didn t always give me enough.This was written in 1951, when a 6 2 188cm woman would have been a big girl, indeed Miss Amelia grew up in this small town, had a home, ran a still and a store, and was a shrewd negotiator as well as a skilled, self taught doctor But she kept to herself and didn t like people much.One day, a handsome man got under her guard and she married him, but that didn t last that spring she cut up his Klansman s robe to cover her tobacco plants She seemed incapable of human warmth my words until a strange little hunchbacked man turned up claiming to be some sort of cousin He moved in and became a popular, entertaining fellow.As people began to hang around the store to visit with him, she decided to open a caf to sell drinks and eventually meals This was a very poor rural town in two ways little money to spend, and nowhere to spend it if you had it The caf made a huge difference, whether or not you had money But the new pride that the caf brought to this town had an effect on almost everyone, even the children For in order to come to the caf you did not have to buy the dinner, or a portion of liquor Everyone was proud to be going out to dinner or going to the caf for a drink because the wife wouldn t allow moonshine in the house Miss Amelia had a drink called Cherry Juice which sold for a penny a glass, The people in the town were likewise proud when sitting at the tables in the caf for a few hours at least, the deep bitter knowing that you are not worth much in this world could be laid low While business is booming, who should darken her door again Right Her Ex How he ingratiates himself with the cousin while poisoning her relationship until there s a final showdown is certainly sad indeed I expect this novella made of an impact when it was written than it would today, but the sense of the difference one person or one business can mean to a small community is perfectly described here Without Miss Amelia, what is anyone to do Even her excellent moonshine is gone The other short stories vary from that of a young girl studying the piano to a jockey dealing with fat cat owners to a man who figured out how to choose whom or what he would love rather than leave it to nature, as most people do, because that had broken his heart.I read this because it s one of the oldest books on my list, and I m glad I did.
Carson McCullers was an American who wrote fiction, often described as Southern Gothic, that explores the spiritual isolation of misfits and outcasts of the South From 1935 to 1937 she divided her time, as her studies and health dictated, between Columbus and New York and in September 1937 she married an ex soldier and aspiring writer, Reeves McCullers They began their married life in Charlotte,
- 152 pages
- The Ballad of the Sad Café
- Carson McCullers
- 11 July 2019 Carson McCullers