The Ballad of the Sad Café

After watching Alan Arkin in the film The Heart is a Lonely Hunter many years ago, I shyed away from reading the works of Carson McCullers because I thought they would be too sad to read. A person who has such sadness in her eyes must inevitably write sad stories.  This weekend I read her brilliantly written novella, The Ballad of the Sad Café, and it was indeed a sad story, and it left me feeling as gray and sad as this dreary, rainy November day.  She writes about loneliness, and the human condition of loneliness even when you are with others, and of unrequited love, and of people that just don’t fit in anywhere.  The feelings she evokes are universal, a reminder of the ultimate loneliness we all face.  She was a gifted writer, and I’m glad I finally read something by her, but I think it will be awhile before I read more of her work.

This is my second read for J.T’s November Novella Challenge.

12 thoughts on “The Ballad of the Sad Café

  1. Bellezza

    Wow, what a topic. Surely it goes with the same November day we’re having here in Illinois, but it also goes with many hearts this time of year. The picture, and title of her work, are so compelling, but I can see where a little would go a long way.


  2. Nan

    Robin, I am quite sure I read this when I was in my early teens. Those years, up through one’s twenties, I would say, are the times to read such stuff. The same with movies – when I was young I watched all those deeply depressing Bergman movies, and now I wouldn’t go near ’em!


  3. Vasilly

    I read McCullers years ago but don’t remember much about The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Will add this to my list. You’re right about the author’s eyes. They hold such sadness.


  4. Les in NE

    I read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter several years ago and I’m sorry to say I didn’t care for it. I found it very depressing and rather difficult to stick with. Nan, didn’t we read it for our little group? Back in 2000 or so?


  5. Robin Post author

    Bellezza, that’s a good way to put it! –“A little goes a long way…

    Nan, I think you are absolutely right. This would have been better to read during my younger years!

    Definitely depressing, J.T. And not recommended for our dark, gray, stormy November days.

    Vasilly, I don’t know much about her life, but it’s definitely written on her face and in her eyes.

    Les, I don’t think I’ll have the heart to pick up another one by her for a long time.


  6. charles

    Carson McCullers struggled with many physical ailments, including pneumonia, breast cancer, and strokes that left her partially paralyzed.

    She had a stormy marriage with Reeves McCullers, including a separation, a divorce and remarriage to him and at one time, according to one source “Reeves had taken a male lover, and Carson’s response was to take a female lover.”

    At one point Reeves wanted to commit a double suicide. Eventually Carson left him, and he eventually overdosed on sleeping pills in Paris.

    She died of a stroke and brain hemorrhage at the relatively young age of 50.

    So, definately a sad life that lead to brilliant, but sad writing.


  7. bybee

    I saw this book recently and circled it thoughtfully. I’ve only read The Heart Is The Lonely Hunter, Reflections In A Golden Eye and a short story called “Wunderkind”, but I’ve always meant to read more. I love photos of her.


  8. Petunia

    It’s true. McCullers looks hopelessly sad in all of her pictures. And this story (it’s the only one of hers I’ve read) evokes the same feeling in the reader. It is so well crafted. I don’t mind depressing books as long as they feel true and this one felt true.



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