Carson McCullers

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McCullers, Carson

McCullers, Carson, 1917–67, American novelist, b. Columbus, Ga. as Lula Carson Smith, studied at Columbia. The central theme of her novels is the spiritual isolation that underlies the human condition. Her characters are usually outcasts and misfits whose longings for love are never fulfilled. In her first novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940), a deaf-mute is the focus of a circle of sad and tormented people. The Member of the Wedding (1946; dramatization, 1950), her best-known work, is the tender story of a lonely adolescent girl. Her other works include the novels Reflections in a Golden Eye (1941) and Clock without Hands (1961); a volume of stories, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (1951; title story dramatized by Edward Albee in 1963); and a play, The Square Root of Wonderful (1958). As a result of misdiagnosed rheumatic fever in her adolescence, McCullers suffered a series of strokes during her twenties that left her partially paralyzed; during her last years she was confined to a wheelchair. A posthumous collection of her writings, The Mortgaged Heart, was published in 1972.


See her Complete Novels (2001); C. L. Dews, ed., Illumination and Night Glare: The Unfinished Autobiography of Carson McCullers (1967, pub. 1999); biographies by O. W. Evans (1965), V. Spencer-Carr (1975), and J. Savigneau (2001); study by M. McDowell (1980).

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McCullers, Carson (b. Lula Carson Smith)

(1917–67) writer; born in Columbus, Ga. She studied at Columbia and New York University (1935–36). She was an accomplished pianist and intended to study at Julliard, but due to poor health, she studied writing instead. She married J. Reeves McCullers (1937), was divorced (1940), and remarried him in 1945. Her first novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940), drew upon her Southern background and explored themes of loss and isolation also seen in her later works. Reflections in a Golden Eye (1941), was followed by the short novel The Ballad of the Sad Café (1943), and the novel, The Member of the Wedding (1946; stage adapta- tion 1950). She suffered several strokes in 1947, was operated on for breast cancer (1961), and died of a stroke in Nyack, N.Y.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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