The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I don’t know what to say about this book. I felt I had to read it; the received wisdom is that it’s one of those “important” books, and I am on a mission to read older, “important” books.
Maybe I’m too plain-thinking. Maybe I failed to spend my time noting the metaphors, political rhetoric, philosophical delineations, allusions and foreshadowings. Or maybe I was simply pierced by the utter annihilation of hope which stained every page, and so I missed all the literary stuff.
I want so much to praise this young author, only 22 when she wrote it! I guess I should have waited a few weeks to write this review, because right now I find that my own human inclination to say and think nice things has been temporarily garroted by the enormity of the sadness in this year-long slice of life in the deep South during the Depression.
Pain which is merely observed is, actually, journalistic. But pain shared is something different. There were times in my life when the 65 cent Septa bus fares were carefully set into piles for the week and without those neat little stacks, I could go nowhere. Do nothing. One financial misstep of a mere 65 cents had some serious consequences. I guess I was poor, but I did not know it. That’s because I had hope.
I cannot find the hope in this book. The privations of the people (of all colors) who live in these pages is immortal. Their impoverishment has an eternal pall. Is that the point our young author intended to make? If one has never, ever had a close encounter with poverty, I guess this would be an important book to read for the cultural literacy, etc.
The plot is clumsy at times, probably because the author wants to make a broader point on “the human condition” and she is contriving the events rather obviously to this end. The characters are very skillfully developed, but the dull torpor of their intractable hardships was enervating.
I don’t know if I agree that this is a “very important book”. I know that it is a very sad one.
My star ratings have to do with how much a book made me think, hence, the four stars here.
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