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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

How Carson McCullers structures her narrative in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Book group will discuss Carson McCullers's debut novel (1940), The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, tonight, and expect discussion of many of the themes of the book, especially the loneliness of the title. Also maybe the "heart" of the title, the various forms of love and sexual desire, ranging from sweet adolescent to the creepy to the socially marginalized: the homoerotic attraction between Singer and Antonapoulos, Biff's obsession with the 14-year-old Mick, Mick's friendship w/ boy-next-door Harry that gets out of control as their sexual drives develop, for three examples. Interesting to note how CMcC leaves unresolved the plot strand of Harry running away after he has sex with Mick; we assume that she is not pregnant - his big, and understandable, fright - although we can't be certain, but we never quite learn what happened to him - a pretty serious thing for a high-school senior and top student, as we understand, to just run away from home w/out leaving a trace. As noted in previous post, I have been skimming this novel to remind myself of key plot points and character relationships, and this is not a good novel to skim. Doing so, however, I recognized something about CMcC's style. She makes for a telling comparison w/ another writer I've posted on recently, Antonio Lobo Antunes, whose The Land at the End of the Earth is also not a novel for skimming; as I noted in posts on that book, every sentence is a work of art and requires close attention (Proust would be similar). With CMcC, the sentences themselves are precise and workmanlike, sometimes even Hemingway-esque, but she builds her story by paragraphs: each is a miniature portrait in itself. To read just the lead sentence of each paragraph is to miss the whole point - like reading the first line of a sonnet or watching only the first scene of a play. In this, I believe her style is much like Flaubert's: simple sentence by sentence, but a cascade of inter-related, beautiful scenes, moments, portraits, and insights.

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