THE BALLAD OF THE SAD CAFE by Carson McCullers

CafeWe all know Carson McCullers better for her The Heart Is  A Lonely Hunter,  as well as Reflections In A Golden Eye, and The Member of the Wedding.   Her ‘southern Gothic’ style works are touching, and touch us in an odd way.  Maybe it is because, as Tessessee Williams once said, “Carson’s major theme: the huge importance and nearly insoluble problems of human love.”

Her characters are the misfits and outcasts, those who are just a step or two too close to the quirky to be accepted by the general society in which they live.  They are the ones who live by the dictates of their heart, and soul, if they have one.

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe is a novella, and the book includes six other short stories.

It is about Miss Amelia, 6’2″, tough and hard and with an eye for the main chance, who lives alone above the general store she operates in a dreary town in Georgia, too far off the beaten track to be much of anything.  She had a ten day marriage to a bad boy turned good by his love and adoration for her, but after the wedding ceremony, she turned him out, refusing to have anything to do with him.  He went off and got himself in big trouble and ended up in the penitentiary,  and all was quiet until the hunchback Lymon, claiming to be a distant cousin of Amelia, strolled into town one day.  Amelia was instantly taken with him, and brought him into her house where he lived for a number of years, to the surprise and astonishment of the townspeople.

Cousin Lyman was a cheerful chatterer, and soon gradually turned the store into a cafe, the one bright spot in the otherwise dismal town.

When we first are introduced to the town, the cafe is closed, the building so ruined and ramshackle that it leaned rather frighteningly, so frighteningly that it wold appear ready to collapse in a heap at any moment, and from the upper window peered the face of Amelia.   What events transpired to bring the cafe and the town and Miss Amelia to this state makes up the story.

It is an examination of love in its various permutations;

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 value and quality of any love is determined solely by the lover himself.  In a deep secret way, the state of being beloved is intolerable to many.

As always, her work lingers in your mind, niggling away in the corners.

 

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