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Carson McCullers (Carson Smith McCullers) Biography

(1917–67), (Carson Smith McCullers), The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Reflections in a Golden Eye

love lonely mute dramatized

American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright, born in Columbus, Georgia, educated at Columbia and New York Universities and the Juilliard School of Music. She suffered a series of crippling strokes in her twenties which left her partially paralysed and confined to a wheelchair towards the end of her life. Her reputation was established with The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940), immediately acclaimed for its moving portrait of a deaf-mute, Mr Singer, who listens to the stories and confessions of his neighbours, and who is deprived of his closest friend, an obese, half-witted mute, and forced to reconstruct his life as best he can by seeking help from those around him. Described by McCullers as an ‘ironic parable of fascism’, the book establishes the principal preoccupations of her fiction: the lonely individual's search for love and acceptance, and the focus on people who are psychologically or physically abnormal. Her next novel, Reflections in a Golden Eye (1941), set in a peacetime army post in Georgia, dissects the relationships of a repressed homosexual captain and his nymphomaniac wife, and a strange man who likes riding horses naked. The Member of the Wedding (1946) continued with Southern settings, a description of the lonely teenager Frankie Addams's emotions on the occasion of the marriage of her older brother, and was subsequently dramatized by McCullers in 1950 and made into a movie in 1952. After the plays The Twisted Trinity (1946) and The Square Root of Wonderful (1958) she returned to the novel with Clock Without Hands (1961), which recounts the final days of a pharmacist dying of leukaemia, and looks at racial problems in the South. She also published two collections of short stories, The Ballad of the Sad Café (1951), which tells of a complicated series of love relationships between odd characters, and which was dramatized by Edward Albee in 1963, and the posthumous The Mortgaged Heart (1971). Her novels are a macabre and sombre exploration of love, frustration, and isolation, which often verge on the comic, even when the material turns to tragedy.

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