“lers (1917-1967) wrote of human loneliness, unfulfilled love,
and the frailty of the human heart.”
Of all the characters in the work of Carson McCullers, the one who seemed to her family and friends to be most like
the author herself was Frankie Addams: the vulnerable, exasperating, and endearing adolescent of The Member of
the Wedding who was looking for the “we of me.” However, Carson once said that was, or became in the process of
writing, all the characters in her work. This is probable true of most real writers who often with pain draw from their
unconscious what the rest of us would just as soon keep hidden from ourselves and others. So accept the fact that
Carson was not only Frankie Addams but J.
T. Malone, Miss Amelia, and Captain Penderton; but familiarity with the
work that she was not able to finish would only be only a partial clue to who and what she was. This was not simply
because she had not finished what she had to say, but that she was the artist, and as she often quoted, “Nothing
human is alien to me.”
So many people were unable to acknowledge Carsons constant closeness to death, and many more resented her for
trying to make them face it, but she had lived through enough close calls to convince everyone that she was
Carson saw her life one way and those intimate with her often perceived it differently. Intentionally or
unintentionally, she added to the confusion about herself.
An interviewer was more likely to be cannily interviewed
than to extract an interview from her. Besides, she simply liked a good story and frequently embellished the more
amusing ones of her life. The one person who singled out this quality in a particularly loving way was Tennessee
Williams in his unpublished essay “Praise to Assenting Angels”:
The great generation of writers that emerged in the twenties, poets such as Eliot, Crane, Cummings, and Wallace
Stevens, prose-writers such as Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Katharine Anne Porter, has not been
succeeded or supplemented by any new figures of corresponding stature with the sole exception of the prodigious
young talent that first appeared in 1940 with the publication of her first novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. She
was at that time a girl of twenty-two who had come to New York from Columbus, Georgia, to study music.
According to the legends that surround her early period in the city, she first established her residence, quite
unwittingly, in a house of prostitution, and she found the other tenants of the house friendly and sympathetic and had
not the ghost of an idea of what illicit enterprise was going on there. One of the girls in this establishment became
her particular friend and undertook to guide her about the town, which Carson McCullers fou!
nd confusing quite imaginably, since even to this day she hesitates to cross an urban street unattended, preferably on
However a misadventure befell her. Too much trust was confided in this mischievous guide, and while
she was being shown the subway route to the Juilliard School of Music, the companion and all of her tuition money,
which the companion had offered to keep for her, abruptly disappeared. Carson was abandoned penniless in the
subway, and some people say it took her several weeks to find her way out, and when she did finally return to the
light of day, it was in Brooklyn when she became enmeshed in a vaguely similar menage whose personnel ranged
from W. H. Auden to Gypsy Rose Lee. At any rate, regardless of how much fantasy this legend may contain, the
career of music was abandoned in favor of writing, and somewhere, sometime, in the dank and labyrinthine
mysteries of the New York subway system, possibly between some chewing gum vendor and some weig!
ht and character analysis given by a doll Gypsy, a bronze tablet should be erected in the memory of the mischievous
comrade who made away with Carsons money for the study of piano.
To paraphrase a familiar clich of screen
publicity-writers, perhaps a great musician was lost but a greater .