Saturday, August 6, 2011

On Rereading, and Round-ups

If you asked for a list of favorite books by favorite authors, Carson McCullers' The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter would be right at the top. This was a book that made a huge impression on me when I read it in my teens as part of a high school English class. I reread it recently, along with The Member of the Wedding, another McCullers favorite.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter tells the stories of a small cast of characters in a small Southern town - Mick Kelly, a spirited teenage girl from a struggling family; Jake Blount, an idealist and labor activist; Doctor Benedict Copeland, an African-American physician; John Singer, a mute boarder at the Kelly's; and Biff Brannon, owner of the town's The New York Cafe. I remembered it being a wonderfully written novel of longing: each character is restless, unsettled, yearning for something out of reach. I didn't remember how much it also considered the political and social climate of the time. McCullers was only in her early twenties when The Heart is a Lonely Hunter was published in 1940. She wrote with amazing insight and maturity for her age, incorporating labor struggles and civil rights injustices into her characters' inner lives with sympathy and complexity.

The Member of the Wedding is also a coming-of-age story about a young teen in a small Southern town. Our protagonist, Frankie Addams, is very much like Mick Kelly, but more so. Spirited, turbulent, just on the cusp of adolescence, switching wildly in any moment between childish and grown up behavior, unsure of where she fits in. Frankie seizes on the idea of her brother's pending wedding and can't let go; she envisions her brother and the bride taking her away with them. Where The Heart is a Lonely Hunter's reach is broader, with several stories carefully paced and woven together, The Member of the Wedding is all intense, stormy burst of passionate early adolescent girl. Read one as a moving novel, read the next to feel the grip on your heart. Rereading confession: I think in the revisiting, I liked The Member of the Wedding more.

In other news, it was a great launch week over at LitStack - hope you got a chance to check it out! Week 1 included lots of wonderful reviews, interviews with authors Hannah Moskowitz and Adam Schuitema,some nostalgia-inducing staff picks (books we loved when we were 14), and much more. I loved (and reviewed) Tiff Holland's Betty Superman,winner of Rose Metal Press's fifth annual chapbook contest, 2011 a brief collection of short stories about a mother-daughter relationship that will make you laugh and break your heart all a the same time. In the SpotLit feature I highlight some favorites from Issue 24 of The Collagist, a truly excellent online literary magazine from Dzanc Books. You can follow LitStack on twitter and  Facebook

Happy reading!
(a complimentary copy of Betty Superman was provided by the publisher.)


  1. I've never read McCullers work, but I remember my high school English teacher (who was the embodiment of pickiness) said The Heart is a Lonely Hunter was one of her favorite novels.

  2. I suspect you would really like her!

  3. I subscribed to LitStack and enjoyed the opening week. Lovely.

  4. Very cool! thanks so much for checking it out.

  5. THe Heart is a Lonely Hunter was probably my favorite "required reading" after Jane Eyre. I remember reading it over the summer in high school one year, probably before 11th grade, and just loving it so much. I'll be rereading it next month and I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to it!

  6. Great insight into some old/new books. I unfortunately haven't read any of them, but they sound like great reads.

  7. Marie, loved Jane Eyre too! So glad you're getting to reread & so curious to hear what the rereading is like for you! Lena, definitely recommend Carson McCullers, if you ever get to them would definitely love to hear what you thought.


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