Celebrating Carson McCullers and the Southern Gothic

Carson McCullers portrait
Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection, LC-USZ62-130115

2017 marks the centennial of Carson McCullers' birth. Considered to be among the most significant American writers of the 20th century, McCullers was born Lula Carson Smith in Columbus, Ga., on February 19, 1917 to a family with deep roots in the South. Her grandfather was a former plantation owner and Confederate hero. At 17, McCullers left home for New York City, where she enrolled at Columbia University to study creative writing. With deeply flawed, disturbing and eccentric characters, McCullers' work is often described as Southern Gothic, even though she penned all her work after leaving the South.

With the publication of her first novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, at 23, Carson McCullers became a literary sensation. Wonderfully attuned to the spiritual isolation that underlies the human condition, and with a deft sense for racial tensions in the South, McCullers' unforgettable story gives voice to the rejected, the forgotten and the mistreated—and, through Mick Kelly, gives voice to the quiet, intensely personal search for beauty. This novel is considered McCullers' finest work, an enduring masterpiece that was chosen by Modern Library as one of the top hundred works of fiction published in the 20th century. The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter was also made into a successful film starring Alan Arkin and Sondra Locke.

The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is available in multiple formats.

McCullers was also a short story writer, playwright, essayist and poet. Many of her other significant works are in Collected Stories, including The Member of the Wedding and The Ballad of the Sad Cafe. Her lasting influence on literature paved the way for the establishment of the American Southern Gothic genre, and her work has been compared with Eudora Welty, Flannery O'Connor and Katherine Anne Porter, other well-known writers of her generation.

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