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The Heart is A Lonely Hunter (1940)

by Carson McCullers

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (120)  Spanish (4)  Catalan (3)  Swedish (2)  French (1)  German (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (132)
Showing 1-5 of 120 (next | show all)
In my opinion, Carson McCullers is a greatly underrated writer. William Faulkner has always taken the lion’s share of kudos among Southern writers, and his gifts remain beyond dispute. However, I would maintain that Carson McCullers writes with superior sensitivity about the same region, the same period of history, the same kinds of characters.

That said, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter is not up to her almost inimitable standard. If we compare it with Member of the Wedding or Ballad of a Sad Café, I think it falls short. This, however, is to be expected: “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” was her first novel. She was still honing her craft.

The characters in this novel are well-drawn — don’t get me wrong. They’re just not as convincing as her characters in the other two books I mention above.

Still, one could do much worse than to consume the entire opus of Carson McCullers — starting, perhaps, with The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter only because she did.

RRB
04/16/11
Brooklyn, NY, USA
( )
  RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
Loved it Loved it Loved it... A great read that challenged so many of my own perspectives. The book is quit a venture. ( )
  Gregorio_Roth | Dec 5, 2014 |
This novel, set in the deep South shortly before WWII, revolves around a man named Singer, who is deaf and (effectively) mute, and those who gravitate towards Singer because, in his silence, he is easy to talk to -- or, perhaps more importantly, easy to project oneself onto.

I hesitate to use it, because it's become a bit of a cliche, but if ever there was a book that merited the phrase "deceptively simple," this is it. I honestly wasn't too certain about the writing style at first, thinking it rather simplistic and choppy, but it quickly drew me in, and, in the end, I think it works extremely well. And while there's nothing remotely obscure or difficult about any of it, there's a lot going on under the surface here. It depicts, in many subtle and interlocking ways, the difficulties of communication, of forming true human connections, of bridging the gap between words and action, and of breaking away from what Thoreau called "lives of quiet desperation." It's also terribly poignant, with well-drawn and believable characters that one cannot help but feel for.

This one definitely deserves its reputation. ( )
  bragan | Nov 18, 2014 |
The opposite of love is not hate, not war. The opposite of love is loneliness, and so long as the heart seeks love, companionship and understanding it will be a lonely hunter. This novel is an ode to the lonely, the isolated, the voice-in-the-wilderness. In 1940 Carson McCullers was a 23-year-old young woman from the American South who clearly sympathized with this profile. She also became renowned through this work for successfully writing from the perspectives of a black doctor, a drunk political agitator, a deaf-mute, etc. - characters who would have remained outside the understanding and empathy of many a more mature author. Her best character is still the young girl Mick. It is easy to read autobiographical elements into Mick's portrayal, true or false. When Mick soaked up music through subterfuge I was imagining a young McCullers sneaking around her community as a child, listening under windows to adult conversations to store them away as writing inspiration.

Loneliness is the pervading theme, a common pain that ironically isolates. The novel centers around the other characters finding kinship with deaf-mute Singer, probably because his isolation is made obvious through his disability, yet they do not succeed at finding similar connections with one another. In my favourite scene they are all visiting Singer at the same time and feel awkward in each other's presence. "Each person addressed his words mainly to the mute. Their thoughts seemed to converge in him as the spokes of a wheel lead to the center hub." The spectrum of characters permits the exploration of a variety of responses when they are confronted with despair. Biff is often lumped with the other three as someone who learns from his experience with Singer, but I viewed him as a Singer alternate; the one to whom the others should have turned instead for learning how to communicate outside the range of their isolated views. They surely would have found in him a more informed and meaningful reflector.

I'm going to shelve it with "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" for the mood it creates: an acknowledgement that although life can be hard, bewildering and often unfair, it is worth the struggle. ( )
2 vote Cecrow | Sep 2, 2014 |
There is nothing uplifting in this novel; it is not as lyrically unified as Reflections in a Golden Eye but it documents the transformation of each character (something lacking in Golden Eye) showing how they are changed by alienation and isolation. It has some passages of writing that are extremely good (Golden Eye is much shorter and the writing is more uniformly outstanding and cohesively lyrical, something easier to do in a short format).

While it was not written to do so or be such, it also serves as a reminder of how much diversity of thought has been lost, at least in mainstream literature.

For me, it started slow but once it got going was hard to put down. I think, in part, this reflects a difference in how novels were structured in the time before TV.

I highly recommend it.
( )
  DinoReader | Aug 21, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 120 (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, Carsonprimary 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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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