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The Heart is A Lonely Hunter by Carson…
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The Heart is A Lonely Hunter (1940)

by Carson McCullers (Author)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Recently added byprivate library, abbeyhar, MaddLibbs, cnnorris, smobkery, knits4feet
Legacy LibrariesCarson McCullers, Karen Blixen
1940s (28) 20th century (111) American (129) American fiction (30) American literature (163) American South (68) classic (129) classics (95) coming of age (63) fiction (945) friendship (41) Georgia (37) isolation (36) literature (114) loneliness (58) novel (175) Oprah (32) Oprah's Book Club (37) own (46) racism (54) read (81) Roman (26) South (50) southern (80) southern gothic (67) Southern Literature (48) the south (27) to-read (150) unread (63) USA (46)
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English (114)  Spanish (4)  Catalan (3)  Swedish (2)  French (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (126)
Showing 1-5 of 114 (next | show all)
A classic. The struggles of the downtrodden as represented by a deaf-mute and his relationships with the forgotten of society. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
Original post at Book Rhapsody.

***

Intro

I gravitate toward some book titles. Such titles are often the ones that could pass off as complete sentences. Type the title of this book on your word processor and I doubt that it would alert a grammatical error.

Book titles that elicit some profound feeling also attract me. Well, this is a subjective experience. I do not know what you feel about Flannery O’Connor’s Everything That Rises Must Converge and Joyce Carol Oates’s Because It Is Bitter, and Because It Is My Heart. No, the latter does not sound like a real complete sentence, but there are strong feelings evoked in me.

Anyway, since I fell in love with the title of Carson McCuller’s book, does this mean that it speaks of who I am? Or does it merely describe the events in the novel?

The Rhapsody

This book is about five people who are dealing with their loneliness. Their circumstances vary but still, they are lonely. Some live their lives literally alone, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are lonely. There are even people who are surrounded by their family and friends, and are yet engulfed by loneliness.

The lead character is John Singer, a deaf-mute yet indispensable worker. Yes, it's ironic that his last name is Singer when he could not even hear or speak. Which is not so ironic at all because his heart sings to four lonely people.

But what makes these people lonely? The inability to speak, unshared ambitions and intelligence, death, alienation within a social class, and radicalism are some of the things that could make people lonely. And how can one drive away loneliness?

By seeking other lonely people? Not necessarily, but yes, that could work too. In the novel, the four people that are drawn to Singer and seek specifically him to vent out the emotions that are bursting inside their chests. They communicate their thoughts to our deaf-mute, who only have these deadpan expressions that the four misconstrue for understanding.

And do these four people know that Singer has his own share of loneliness? I don't think so. I get the feeling that they just go on and on without even considering that Singer might be tired of their whining. Can we conclude then that loneliness breeds selfishness? Do they come hand in hand?

What I think is this. Loneliness visits a person who rarely communicates his thoughts and feelings to others. And lonely people can only communicate so well with the same lonely people. They have the feeling that they are comrades, that they are the only people who could truly understand them.

So I take back what I said. The four people who find comfort in Singer must have known all along, but they are too absorbed in their own issues. As long as they could talk, as long as there is someone who would indulge them, they can go through another day.

And what happens if they lose their dear Singer?

Final Notes

Aside from loneliness, I think this novel speaks strongly about delusion and disillusionment. I remember one scene where one of the characters, Mick Kelly, makes an improvised violin. Well, Mick loves music so much. She tries to learn the piano despite her lack of resources, and she can only listen to the music that she loves through one of her neighbor's radio.

Which sucks because poverty is getting in the way of her love for music. And isn't that scenario common to most of us? In this country, that is no longer surprising. People just shrug it off. One really has to work his way out of poverty before he can pursue what he loves. Which can make people watch their years go wasted. Which can make people desperate. Which can make people lonely.

I read somewhere that McCullers is a frustrated pianist, similar to Mick Kelly. She was supposed to study at Juilliard, the top school for music majors. But somehow, she was not able to pay for her tuition.

It's almost always like that. But thanks to that, she was able to produce this profoundly written novel. ( )
  angusmiranda | Jun 10, 2014 |
While I didn't dislike this book, it was pretty depressing. The writing is beautiful and the story told is interesting but the overall feeling was pretty much a downer. I read this as something I had never read before and believed I needed to do read it for myself. So, while I am glad I read it, it won't make it in my "best of" lists this year. ( )
  bookswoman | Jun 8, 2014 |
Warning: slightly spoilery

Above all else, this is a compassionate book. It has no clear protagonists or antagonists, just a whisper of a plot but what it has in spades are characters, convictions and the hard life. They wander through their lives, each consumed by the private truths that both define and isolate them. There is a certain narcissism in their passions, that they somehow are beyond the understanding of their peers. Over and over the reader is allowed to see people misread and ignore people they'd do well to know. Ultimately, the only person any of them are able to connect with is a deaf-mute. The irony being that as a deaf-mute he serves merely as a mirror of themselves, too polite and too voiceless to admit his confusion or disinterest in their obsessions. He is merely the shape of a person, a receptical for all of the characteristics and opinions they wish him to have. As ugly as it sounds, in making a saint and a god of the mute they chose a selfish and cowardly facsimilie of friendship over the real thing.

This had been on my shelf because of my appreciation for southern gothic literature, but it doesn't feel anything like the others I've read. There is brutality here, but we aren't really ever allowed to know any real villains. The world is harsh and cruel, but while Carson ruthlessly shreds the exploitation and cruelty wrought by capitalism and racism their existence is too pervasive and its crimes common place to the point of invisibility. These are crimes of cultural systems and it is impossible to put a human name or face behind the villainy. As such the book lacks the harsh judgement and accusing finger so often aimed at characters in southern gothic literature. There is just sadness and frustration in knowing the problem and being powerless to change things. Couple this with the unfailing compassion McCullers has for her characters and it feels darker than Faulkner's most twisted tale. ( )
  fundevogel | May 18, 2014 |
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is the first novel by Carson McCullers, she rose to fame with it at the young age of twenty-three in 1940. It's considered a masterpiece, and her finest work. I didn't get it. Truthfully, I marked it as "did not finish" and went on to other books. I came back to it because of the reviews, thinking maybe the ending was spectacular.

The book depicts small town America in the 1930s. Noone has much money, nothing exciting goes on. Everyone has big dreams that don't come true and they end up bitter and disappointed. The story is dark and depressing, which may have been the author's intent, but it made the book very hard to read. ( )
1 vote NCRainstorm | Mar 27, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 114 (next | show all)
No matter what the age of its author, "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" would be a remarkable book. When one reads that Carson McCullers is a girl of 22 it becomes more than that. Maturity does not cover the quality of her work. It is something beyond that, somthing more akin to the vocation of pain to which a great poet is born. Reading her, one feels this girl is wrapped in knowledge which has roots beyond the span of her life and her experience. How else can she so surely plumb the hearts of characters as strange and, under the force of her creative shaping, as real as she presents—two deaf mutes, a ranting, rebellious drunkard, a Negro torn from his faith and lost in his frustrated dream of equality, a restaurant owner bewildered by his emotions, a girl of 13 caught between the world of people and the world of shadows.

Carson McCullers is a full-fledged novelist whatever her age. She writes with a sweep and certainty that are overwhelming. "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" is a first novel. One anticipates the second with something like fear. So high is the standard she has set. It doesn't seem possible that she can reach it again.
 

» Add other authors (32 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
McCullers, CarsonAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bruggen, W.F.H. tenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Elst, Ad van derCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Reeves McCullers and to Marguerite and Lamar Smith
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In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618526412, Paperback)

With the publication of her first novel, THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER, Carson McCullers, all of twenty-three, became a literary sensation. With its profound sense of moral isolation and its compassionate glimpses into its characters' inner lives, the novel is considered McCullers' finest work, an enduring masterpiece first published by Houghton Mifflin in 1940. At its center is the deaf-mute John Singer, who becomes the confidant for various types of misfits in a Georgia mill town during the 1930s. Each one yearns for escape from small town life. When Singer's mute companion goes insane, Singer moves into the Kelly house, where Mick Kelly, the book's heroine (and loosely based on McCullers), finds solace in her music. Wonderfully attuned to the spiritual isolation that underlies the human condition, and with a deft sense for racial tensions in the South, McCullers spins a haunting, unforgettable story that gives voice to the rejected, the forgotten, and the mistreated -- and, through Mick Kelly, gives voice to the quiet, intensely personal search for beauty.
Richard Wright praised Carson McCullers for her ability "to rise above the pressures of her environment and embrace white and black humanity in one sweep of apprehension and tenderness." She writes "with a sweep and certainty that are overwhelming," said the NEW YORK TIMES. McCullers became an overnight literary sensation, but her novel has endured, just as timely and powerful today as when it was first published. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER is Carson McCullers at her most compassionate, endearing best.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:26:06 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

With the publication of her first novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers, all of twenty-three, became a literary sensation. With its profound sense of moral isolation and its compassionate glimpses into its characters' inner lives, the novel is considered McCullers' finest work, an enduring masterpiece first published by Houghton Mifflin in 1940. At its center is the deaf-mute John Singer, who becomes the confidant for various types of misfits in a Georgia mill town during the 1930s. Each one yearns for escape from small town life. When Singer's mute companion goes insane, Singer moves into the Kelly house, where Mick Kelly, the book's heroine (and loosely based on McCullers), finds solace in her music. Wonderfully attuned to the spiritual isolation that underlies the human condition, and with a deft sense for racial tensions in the South, McCullers spins a haunting, unforgettable story that gives voice to the rejected, the forgotten, and the mistreated -- and, through Mick Kelly, gives voice to the quiet, intensely personal search for beauty.Richard Wright praised Carson McCullers for her ability "to rise above the pressures of her environment and embrace white and black humanity in one sweep of apprehension and tenderness." She writes "with a sweep and certainty that are overwhelming," said the New York Times. McCullers became an overnight literary sensation, but her novel has endured, just as timely and powerful today as when it was first published. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is Carson McCullers at her most compassionate, endearing best.… (more)

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