Carson McCullers

Carson McCullers

Carson McCullers (February 19, 1917– September 29, 1967) was an American author of novels and short stories. Born in Columbus Georgia, McCullers moved to New York when she was 17 to study piano, but instead, ended up going to both NYU and Columbia to study creative writing. Her writing corresponded with her life, as it was often in flux and challenging. For much the time, she was debilitated by poor health, but she continued to work as long as she could, adapting her work to stage and film. Her stories were filled with lonely, obsessed, or reclusive characters.

McCullers was considered a star among her peers because of the depth and intuition inherent in her work. Her most widely received works were The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, published in 1940, and Reflections in a Golden Eye, published in 1942. The Member of the Wedding also became widely known due to its adaptation to other media.

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Carson McCullers Quotes

Carson McCullers“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are gone, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing.”

“I live with the people I create and it has always made my essential loneliness less keen.”

“My advice to you is this. Do not attempt to stand alone. …The most fatal thing a man can do is try to stand alone.” (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, 1940)

“What are the sources of an illumination? To me, they come after hours of searching and keeping my soul ready. Yet they come in a flash, as a religious phenomenon. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter had such an illumination, beginning my long search for the truth of the story and flashing light into the long two years ahead.”

“There is no stillness like the quiet of the first cold nights in the fall.” (The Ballad of the Sad Cafe and Other Stories, 1951)

“The theme is the theme of humiliation, which is the square root of sin, as opposed to the freedom from humiliation, and love, which is the square root of wonderful.”

“It is music that causes the heart to broaden and the listener to grow cold with ecstasy and fright.” (The Ballad of the Sad Cafe and Other Stories, 1951)

“All we can do is go around telling the truth.” (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, 1940)

“It was better to be in a jail where you could bang the walls than in a jail you could not see.” (The Member of the Wedding, 1946)

“Maybe when people longed for a thing that bad the longing made them trust in anything that might give it to them.” (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, 1940)

“We wander, question. But the answer waits in each separate heart – the answer of our own identity and the way by which we can master loneliness and feel that at last we belong.” (The Mortgaged Heart: Selected Writings, 1971)

Carson McCullers“Her face felt like it was scattered in pieces and she could not keep it straight. The feeling was a whole lot worse than being hungry for any dinner, yet it was like that. I want–I want–I want–was all that she could think about–but just what this real want was she did no know.” (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, 1940)

“This fear is one of the horrors of an author’s life. Where does work come from? What chance, what small episode will start the chain of creation? I once wrote a story about a writer who could not write anymore, and my friend Tennessee Williams said, ‘How could you dare write that story, it’s the most frightening work I have ever read.’ I was pretty well sunk while I was writing it.”

“The thinking mind is best controlled by the imagination.” (Illumination and Night Glare: The Unfinished Autobiography of Carson McCullers, 1999)

“The writer by nature of his profession is a dreamer and a conscious dreamer. He must imagine, and imagination takes humility, love and great courage. How can you create a character without love and the struggle that goes with love?”

“How can the dead be truly dead when they still live in the souls of those who are left behind?” (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, 1940)

“The mind is like a richly woven tapestry in which the colors are distilled from the experiences of the senses, and the design drawn from the convolutions of the intellect.”

“…most of us would rather love than be loved. Almost everyone wants to be the lover. And the curt truth is that, in a deep secret way, the state of being beloved is intolerable to many.” (The Ballad of the Sad Cafe and Other Stories, 1951)

“She wished there was some place where she could go to hum it out loud. Some kind of music was too private to sing in a house cram fall of people. It was funny, too, how lonesome a person could be in a crowded house.” (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, 1940)

“We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.”

“The most fatal thing a man can do is try to stand alone.” (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, 1940)

Carson McCullers and friend“Love is a joint experience between two persons — but the fact that it is a joint experience does not mean that it is a similar experience to the two people involved.” (The Ballad of the Sad Cafe and Other Stories, 1951)

“For fear is a primary source of evil. And when the question “Who am I?” recurs and is unanswered, then fear and frustration project a negative attitude. The bewildered soul can answer only: “Since I do not understand ‘Who I am,’ I only know what I am not.”  (The Mortgaged Heart: Selected Writings, 1971)

“The way I need you is a loneliness I cannot bear.”

“I never read my reviews. If they’re good, they might give me the big-head, and if they are unfavorable, I would be depressed. So why bother?”

“Why does one write? Truly it is financially the most ill-rewarded occupation in the world. My lawyer has figured out how much I made from the book The Member of the Wedding, and it is, over the five years I worked on it, twenty-eight cents a day.”


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