Our show today is devoted to looking at the work of one of Georgia’s literary giants: Carson McCullers. She was born in Columbus in 1917. Her father ran a jewelry store. Her mother’s chief occupation always seemed to be doting upon and caring for her sickly daughter Carson.
Although she initially wanted to become a musician, McCullers began writing stories as a teenager.
She found the South oppressive: the stifling heat, the sweet claustrophobic scent of magnolias in bloom, the narrow-mindedness of many of her neighbors. And so, she escaped to New York City in the mid-1930s. But it was the South she wrote about in her books, essays and stories. “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” “The Ballad of the Sad Café,” and “The Member of the Wedding,” are her most famous works - all were set in the South.
Because she struggled with rheumatic fever and other crippling maladies, she saw herself as a misfit, an outsider, and so finding connections, finding love and kindness, among her fellow human beings was a paramount concern in her personal life and a theme that dominates much of her writing.
Our guest is Carlos Dews, one of the foremost authorities on McCullers’ life and work. He’s the editor of “McCullers: Stories, Plays and Other Writings,” just published by the Library of America. Dews has a long history of working on McCullers’ writings.
He was the founding director of the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians at Columbus State University and he became the editor of her unfinished autobiography “Illumination and Night Glare,” which he based on the notes she’d written for a book she planned about her own life.
Throughout our conversation, producer Lisa Clark shares excerpts from the stories we’re discussing.