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Illumination and Night Glare: The Unfinished Autobiography of Carson…

by Carson McCullers

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835264,626 (3.79)3
More than thirty years after it was written, the autobiography of Carson McCullers, Illumination and Night Glare, will be published for the first time. McCullers, one of the most gifted writers of her generation--the author of Member of the Wedding, Reflections in a Golden Eye, and The Ballad of Sad Cafe--died of a stroke at the age of fifty before finishing this, her last manuscript. Editor Carlos L. Dews has faithfully brought her story back to life, complete with never-before-published letters between McCullers and her husband Reeves, and an outline of her most famous novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Looking back over her life from a precocious childhood in Georgia to her painful decline from a series of crippling strokes, McCullers offers poignant and unabashed remembrances of her early writing success, her family attachments, a troubled marriage to a failed writer, and friendships with literary and film luminaries (Gypsy Rose Lee, Richard Wright, Isak Dinesen, John Huston, Marilyn Monroe), and the intense relationships of the important women in her life.… (more)
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English (4)  French (1)  All languages (5)
Showing 4 of 4
A fascinating if poignant book.
The unfinished memoir, recollections and hopes dictated by McCullers between 1965 and 1967 form about 75 pages of this book. This section includes biographical notes about her family and meeting/living with famous friends, thoughts about her husband, Reeves, and her restricted life in 1966 and 1967, although she manages a visit to John Huston (the director of the film of Reflections in a Golden Eye) in Ireland. Her hopeful comments about being able to travel more once her leg is amputated, which didn’t happen as she had a massive stroke, are sad in retrospect.
There follows about 80 pages of correspondence between Carson and her at that time ex-husband Reeves from 1944 and 1945 whilst Reeves is in the US infantry. These are moving as they show Carson and Reeves continuing long distance love for each other, especially poignant when Carson is writing worrying about Reeves being caught up in the German counteroffensive, when he had been wounded and hospitalised days before. This section was unexpected and affecting in its revealing honesty pf Carson’s wishes for Reeves. Carson had indicated that some of the correspondence should be included in Illuminations, but had not indicated which letters before her death.
The outline of “The Mute” (retitled The Heart is a Lonely Hunter for publication), which has previously been published elsewhere, is included as an appendix. The outline had been sent to the publisher together with the first chapters in order to to sell the book, but is a very interesting summary of McCullers intentions.
There is also a detailed chronology and index. ( )
  CarltonC | Sep 13, 2020 |
I registered a book at BookCrossing.com!
http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/12889048

After reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter recently, I wanted to know more about Carson McCullers. This is one book I got - the unfinished autobiography.

McCullers was fifty years old and bedridden when she started this. At times it was very difficult to do - she had to dictate to others, and even speaking was not always easy. Since having rheumatic fever as a child, she had several strokes throughout her life, culminating in a very bad one that left her in bed, waiting until she could have her leg removed (complications). She died before she finished.

Thus this is a first draft of part of the story. Based on what I've read of her working habits, she would have spent a great deal of time rewriting and editing after finishing a draft. She didn't get the chance, and we are probably the poorer for it.

The title she chose refers to inspirations and blocks in her writing life. It suggests that she intended that her autobiography delve into her writing and her relationships based on her writing, rather than on more personal sides of her. While she did make a note to include letters written between herself and her ex-husband Reeves (whom she married for a second time after WWII), she reveals very little about their relationship. She also skips entirely a significant relationship the two of them had with a third person (noted in the lengthy introduction by Carlos L. Dews). Very little "real" emotion makes it onto the page. I had the sense of her writing so as not to offend or alarm any friends. LIke a soft curtain was placed over the reality.

I was disappointed, therefore, in the autobiography itself. I wish she had had the time to finish it, as it might have become a very different book. I also found the letters between Carson and Reeves as, frankly, tiresome. Although both profess to great love for the other, I simply didn't feel it. I did enjoy reading the lengthy "outline" of "Lonely Hunter". The outline was used to sell the book to the publisher before it was finished, and it worked. It illuminates much in the book for anyone wanting to take it apart and understand the messages. It also reveals how much detail she put into her novels, how much planning and thinking. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
An enjoyable read though too short because she never finished it. I was not put off by the awkwardness of the text due to her never being able to revise and edit her words. I never minded that she rambled and digressed. I actually enjoyed it very much. But, the letters between Carson and her troubled husband were a bore and I merely skimmed through them. And I also was not interested in her outline for The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. ( )
  MSarki | Jan 23, 2016 |
This memoir of the famous writer was never finished, and in fact is no more than a loose collection of notes narrated orally in McCullers’ last days. It reveals a little about her work, and almost nothing about her relationships, although there are a few nuggets of interesting information that might or might not be true, and some good quotable comments. Overall, time would be better spent reading a biography which draws from this work as well as other sources to create a full picture of Carson McCullers. ( )
2 vote kambrogi | Apr 7, 2011 |
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More than thirty years after it was written, the autobiography of Carson McCullers, Illumination and Night Glare, will be published for the first time. McCullers, one of the most gifted writers of her generation--the author of Member of the Wedding, Reflections in a Golden Eye, and The Ballad of Sad Cafe--died of a stroke at the age of fifty before finishing this, her last manuscript. Editor Carlos L. Dews has faithfully brought her story back to life, complete with never-before-published letters between McCullers and her husband Reeves, and an outline of her most famous novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Looking back over her life from a precocious childhood in Georgia to her painful decline from a series of crippling strokes, McCullers offers poignant and unabashed remembrances of her early writing success, her family attachments, a troubled marriage to a failed writer, and friendships with literary and film luminaries (Gypsy Rose Lee, Richard Wright, Isak Dinesen, John Huston, Marilyn Monroe), and the intense relationships of the important women in her life.

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