20 February 2006

Of lonely hunters

Carson McCullers, born 19 February 1917
To me the most impressive aspect of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is the astonishing humanity that enables a white writer, for the first time in Southern fiction, to handle Negro characters with as much ease and justice as those of her own race. This cannot be accounted for stylistically or politcally; it seems to stem from an attitude toward life which enables Miss McCullers to rise above the pressures of her environment and embrace white and black humanity in one sweep of apprehension and tenderness.

In the conventional sense, this is not so much a novel as a projected mood, a state of mind poetically objectified in words, an attitude externalized in naturalistic detail. Whether you will want to read the book depends upon the extent to which you value the experience of discovering the stale and familiar terms of everyday life bathed in a rich and strange meaning, devoid of pettiness and sentimentality.
~ Richard Wright, 1940

This book is literature. Because it is literature, when one puts it down it is not with a feeling of emptiness and despair (which an outline of the plot might suggest), but with a feeling of having been nourished by the truth. For one knows at the end, that it is these cheated people, these with burning intense needs and purposes, who must inherit the earth. They are the reason for the existence of a democracy which is still to be created. This is the way it is, one says to oneself - but not forever.
~ May Sarton, 1940

1 comment:

genevieve said...

A stunning achievement, which put some stress on her considering it was a first novel. The later books are much shorter and prone to a slight tendency to mystification. And I'm not completely satisfied that she had a complete identification with African Americans - she has a tendency to objectify them sometimes.Still wonderful stuff though.