I have been remiss in continuing to post lately. I took a long time to get over the very bad throat and ear infection I picked up in Japan. I am still coughing but getting back to normal.
I finished the short novella The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers. It is described as an American Gothic tale.
It is the story of Miss Amelia who was married to Marvin Macy but she threw him out ten days after the wedding. He was very mean but also the most handsome man in town.
Amelia reminded me a more complex Olive Kitteridge especially in appearance.. She is a big woman, almost 6’3″ and seems to live inside her head quite a bit. She lives alone, runs a cafe and doesn’t really interact a great deal with the locals except to administer some of their medical needs from a naturopathic point of view.
One day a man arrives at her cafe. He is a hunch backed dwarf. It turns out he is called Cousin Lymon. He introduces himself to Amelia as a distant relative and without further ado he is invited to live in the cafe. He is very attention seeking and needs to be involved in everything that is happening. I think Carson McCullers was brilliant in character development in everything she wrote and Cousin Lymon and Amelia are as real as can be.
With the arrival of Cousin Lymon the cafe begins to pick up. It becomes quite the social hub and there is a love between Amelia and Cousin Lymon. Although this love is not disclosed much, the reader feels the fondness they feel for each other. They seem to feel the loneliness each of them has suffered.
Then one day her ex-husband arrives out of the blue. Marvin Macy is a cruel man and has been incarcerated and out of the picture for quite sometime. He eventually moves into the cafe. Cousin Lymon appears to facilitate this arrangement.
This is where I will stop telling you what happens. The story is about loneliness, betrayal and community ties (or not). I found it to be a sad tale but that wasn’t unexpected. The title informs us of that.
I found the first half of the story went along quite nicely and then towards the end it slows down. By the end of this tale I was just happy to be away from all of these people. It was a story worth reading but one I probably won’t be revisiting. I cannot forget these characters.
The beautiful writing and descriptions are there but I felt the story weakened as it continued until there was nothing left. In a way I think that is how it was meant to be.
Something interesting I read in this book was the information about Carson McCuller’s herself. I will share this information with you.
“Carson McCullers was born in Columbus, Georgia in 1917. She was always a delicate person and as a young adult began to suffer from strokes, and by the age of thirty-one was paralysed down her left side. For awhile she could only use one finger to type, and for years before her death could not sit at a desk to work. In 1938 she married James Reeves McCullers, a corporal in the US army. The marriage was not a success and they divorced. They did, however, keep in touch and subsequently remarried, separating finally in 1953. He later committed suicide.”
She was established as a writer by her early twenties but it was not until she published, The Heart is A Lonely Hunter at the age of twenty-three that she won widespread recognition.
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter has long been one of my favourite tales. If you haven’t read it I would recommend it. A beautiful book. There is a line of sadness throughout her writing but not so much it puts me off. I think knowing what I do of Ms Carson’s life there is no wonder her stories can be pretty downtrodden.
I would read more of her stories. I still have a few short stories of hers on my shelf to be read.
I am happy to be picking up again in energy and health and look forward to more happening in the next month but I will explain that in my next post.