What better way for a writer to make sure future generations understand her life and work to than to write her own story? In the introduction to her unfinished autobiography, editor Carlos L. Dews
writes, "Perhaps more important than any of the specific content in the autobiography are the traces of Carson's personality found just beneath the surface of the narrative. McCullers's rare, cherished illuminations helped her survive the most frequent and lasting night glare because they provided her, like her character Mick Kelly in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
, an inner room to which she could retreat to recover, create, and protect herself."
Photo credit: Harry Ransom CenterJoin Carson on a visit to her own inner room.
"I was dainty if I was anything, my mother saw to that. She wanted me to be pretty and did her damndest to make me so. I wasn't downright homely, but I was no beauty no matter how Mother fussed over me."
"I yearned for one particular thing; to get away from Columbus and to make my mark in the world. I realized that Daddy would not be able to send me to Julliard or any other great school. I know my Daddy was embarrassed about this, and loving him as I did, I quietly put away all my thoughts of a music career, and told him I had switched 'Professions', and was going to be a writer."
"Reading Isadora Duncan and Lady Chatterley Lover was one thing but personal experience was another. When I asked my mother about sex she asked me to come behind the holly tree and said with her sublime simplicity, 'Sex, my darling, takes place where you sit down.' I was therefore forced to read sex text books, which made it seem so very dull, as well as incredible."
"I was completely absorbed in work, and if the food burned up [Reeves] never chided me. More important, he read and criticized each chapter as it was being done. Once I asked him if he thought [Heart] was any good. He reflected for a long time, and then he said, 'No, it's not good, it's great.'"
"I don't know why I felt I owed such devotion to Reeves. Perhaps it was because he was the only man I had ever kissed, and the awful tyranny of pity. I knew he was not faithful to me sexually, but that did not matter to me, nor am I an especially maternal women. We might have been far, far happier as casual friends. But that's not the way it happened."
"It was going to be a marriage of love and writing for both of us. My life was following a pattern I have always followed. Work and love. I worked hard and loved hard. I must say that in all his talk of wanting to be a writer, I never saw one single line he's ever written except his letters."
"This fear is one of the horrors of an author's life. Where does work come from? What chance, what small episode will start the chain of creation? I once wrote a story about a writer who could not write anymore, and my friend Tennessee Williams said, "How could you dare write that story, it's the most frightening work I have ever read.' I was pretty well sunk while I was writing it."
"I want to be able to write whether in sickness or in health, for indeed, my health depends almost completely on my writing. The doctors have all decided that my crippled leg must be amputated. They cannot do it right away because the hospitals are so full...So in the nights of glare I just cuss out the doctors for making me wait, and cuss out my leg for hurting so."
"What are the sources of an illumination? To me, they come after hours of searching and keepinh my soul ready. Yet they come in a flash, as a religious phenomenon. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter hed such an illumination, beginning my long search for the truth of the story and flashing light into the long two years ahead."