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The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers

Hosted By A Public Space

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The Ballad of the Sad Café could come with an accompanying subtitle, The Anatomy of Human Longing, as though Carson McCullers was writing not with a pen, but with a scalpel. The novella guarantees to keep us alert and awake for a few long winter days.

Carson McCullers

(1917–1967) was a celebrated American author of the Southern Gothic tradition, though she wrote all of her fiction after leaving the South in 1934. During World War II, she lived in Brooklyn's February House, an artist's commune whose tenants would include W. H. Auden, Jane and Paul Bowles, and Gypsy Rose Lee. Her books include The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and The Member of the Wedding


Daily Reading

Day 1

January 28, 2021 | pp. 3-12 (through "Soon the premise above the store were dark as the rest of the town.")

"Her marriage had been unlike any other marriage ever contracted in this country."
"I am hunting for Miss Amelia Evans."
Contracted, hunting––McCullers's word choice is efficient and thrilling.

Day 2

January 29, 2021 | pp. 12-26 (through "even if this experience can cause him only pain.")

"There is a type of person who who has a quality about him that sets him apart from other and more ordinary human beings. Such a person has an instinct which is usually found in small children, an instinct to establish immediate and vital contact between himself and all things in the world."
Articulating the most inarticulable is McCullers' special talent: here's an ode to dogs and children and all the instinctual beings who have no use for the ordinary language to process an ordinary life.

Day 3

January 30, 2021 | pp. 26-44 (through "and only after a long time went to sleep.)

Marvin Macy's wild love letter to Miss Amelia: "party written in pencil and partly written in ink."One could almost see the words in ink fading and then replaced by pencil–the sad futility of using up the ink yet still having more things to say.

Day 4

January 31, 2021 | (through "a little longer than the night before.")

"One day she sat down to her typewriter and wrote a story–a story in which there were foreigners, trap doors, and millions of dollars."
Miss Amelia as a writer: a poignant moment. Even the most omniscient narrator falls short in reproducing a mind feeling poetic.

Day 5

February 1, 2021 | pp. 62-71 (to the end.)

The half painted porch, one side bright green and one side dark and dingy, reminds one of the Marvin Macy's love letter to Miss Amelia, half in ink and half in pencil.


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