I was 10 or 11 when Columbus author Carson McCullers entered my world.
It was a Saturday night in the mid-1960s. My parents had gone out for the evening with friends and left me with a sitter – something they rarely did. We were watching the late movie on one of only two channels we got back then. The 1952 movie version of The Member of the Wedding was on, and I was mesmerized.
Most of the late movies I watched on weekends starred Bela Lugosi, Vincent Price or Christopher Lee. They involved vampires or haunted houses. But this movie was set in the South, and the main characters were children close to my age. Up until that night, I had the mistaken notion that everything significant that had ever been was done by somebody in Hollywood or New York City, or maybe Liverpool.
When my parents came in that night, I could talk of nothing but The Member of the Wedding. That’s when Mama told me that the lady who wrote the book the movie was based on was from Columbus – right up the road. On Monday, I called the Phenix City library and asked “the Bookmobile ladies” to bring me McCullers’s novel the next time they came to Jernigan.
My two best friends and I were “country Southern children.” We were happier in the fields and pastures in Jernigan – or even in the kitchen at home – than we were in the halls at school or at parties. McCullers’s characters reminded me of us.
If she were still alive, Carson McCullers would have turned 101 last month. Her life was anything but easy. The “theme” of most of her fiction is loneliness, the feeling of not belonging, of being alienated. Her characters have an awkward innocence and, like her, find kinship with anomalies and misfits.
She spoke for all of us who thought too much or felt too deeply to ever quite fit in. Happy birthday, Carson McCullers, and thank you.
Marian Carcache welcomes
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