Carson McCullers at 104

“Mick is perhaps the most outstanding character in the book.” Carson McCullers is describing a central character in her remarkable debut novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. 

“At the beginning of the second part of the work she steps out boldly—and from then on, up until the last section, she commands more space and interest than anyone else. Her story is that of the violent struggle of a gifted child to get what she needs from an unyielding environment.” OK, perhaps McCullers is really describing herself.

Carson McCullers is the patron saint of the Heartlands site. I haven’t let one of her birthdays (Feb. 19) pass without some mention of her. I’ve written her poetry, discussed her sense of spiritual isolation with Nick Norwood of the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians at Columbus State, reviewed her books and those who’ve written about her, and shoehorned her in when talking about books that have nothing to do with her.

So as I read through the relatively new Library of America edition of her stories, essays, and plays, I give thanks all over again for the grit and confidence of the teenaged Carson, pulling all her prodigious gifts into a novel that still speaks to the misfits and yearners who haunt our land. As she wrote of her alter ego:

The essential traits of Mick Kelly are great creative energy and courage. She is defeated by society on all the main issues before she can even begin, but still there is something in her and in those like her that cannot and will not ever be destroyed.

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