Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Read this book, and you will visit this sad, lonely group of people, living in a economically depressed town in the South, during the Great Depression, during a time of racial injustice, hunger for many, and yes, lack of health care. 

I think if you would like to appreciate how wonderful it is to live in our current Great Recession, you should read this book.  In the 1930's, lack of health care meant that there was no hospital that would save you; no doctor to see if you didn't have the money.  Hunger was not relieved by food stamps.  Jobs were scarce.   Life was tough.

This novel is centered around five main characters.  Four of the characters are strongly passionate about their aspirations.  There is the old black Dr. Copeland who believes in Marxism, the young Mick Kelly who wants to compose music, crazy Jake Blout who wants to teach people about economic injustice in America, and Biff Branon who through a true love for his fellow man wants to ease suffering.  These characters all gather around their friend, deaf-mute John Singer, of whom each believes he understands their passions.  He doesn't.  As you read this book, you believe that each of their aspirations can be obtained.  In the end, McClullers crashes this, and doesn't give us much hope for any of her characters in this novel.  It is surprisingly entertaining for a novel with about zero plot, though one could argue that there are five strong subplots.  Each subplot tells a sad story through a purposeful character.

This is an Oprah Book Club book, the perfect place to find every sort of human misery put into literature.  The stories of the five main characters are told to make, what I think, is a point that we are basically inconsequential, sad creatures who struggle in a horrible world.

The following is referring to Biff, the do-good er and owner of an all night cafe.

"For in a swift radiance of illumination he saw a glimpse of human struggle and of valor.  Of the endless fluid passage of humanity through endless time.  And of those who labor and of those who .. love.  His soul expanded.  ... Between the two worlds he was suspended.. The left eye delved narrowly into the past while the right gazed wide and affrighted into a future of blackness, error and ruin"

I think I'll throw myself off a bridge now.  Nah, maybe just have a glass of wine to kill the pain.

Yes, this book is a masterpiece.  It is well written, makes you care about the rich characters, has a point, keeps you interested and turning pages as the motivations and horrendous problems are laid out on these pages.  It would make a great discussion book.  However, for a book club pick, my personal preference would be for something with more hope and fun.

I would like to recommend To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee as an alternative.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Readers, do you know of a great book, set in depression era America, that leads you with more hope that you would recommend?

1 comment:

  1. A friend (who tried to post, but it didn't quite work right) has suggested "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" by Betty Smith as an uplifting book of the same basic genre.