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FREE READ The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter 107 á Carson McCullers’ prodigious first novel was published to instant acclaim when she was just twenty three Set in a small town in the middle of the deep South it is the story of John Singer a lonely deaf mute and a disparate group of people who are drawn towards his kind sympathetic nature The owner of tCarson McCullers’ prodigious first novel was published to instant acclaim when she was just twenty three Set in a small town in the middle of the deep South it is the story of John Sin. I knew nothing about this book at all Well except for the title I’d definitely heard the title before – but I would have bet money the book was written by a man and that it was bad romance novel at least that would have been my best guess Instead this is now perhaps one of my all time favourite American novels It can be compared without the least blush of embarrassment with Steinbeck at his best and Harper Lee out killing mocking birds – and there are many many points of comparison between all three writers This one has completely captivated me – and in ways I had not expected to be captivated My very dear friend Nell and I were chatting one day about Calvino’s idea of the books one might write and how these ought to fit into an imaginary bookcase – the short version of his idea being what books would you like your own book to be beside on an imaginary bookshelf Anyway in the very next email from Nell there appeared a list of books – one of which was this one I went to the library to see if I could find it and then to some second hand bookshops around and about – but with no luck Well six months or so later and now I’ve read it And god I can’t begin to tell you how glad I amThe title is actually the perfect title for this book but that is only true after you have read it – it is actually a remarkably bad title for the book before you have read it I would not be surprised if 999 readers in a thousand would think that this would be a story about unreuited love That this might just be a melancholy story about a protagonist let’s call him Mr Sadsack who has spent his life looking for the perfect partner but she is terribly allusive and although he sometimes despairs that he will ever find her no one reading this imaginary novel called ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ doubts that in the end our nice wee man will finally end up with his perfect partner But no Although the title might make you think the book is about this sort of thing it is about nothing like this at allI guess I could say that the book has grand themes about ‘what is wrong with The South’ – and that might make you form images in your mind of the inhuman treatment of black Americans in the southern states of America and the struggle to end segregation and a terrible legal system based on discrimination And although you would be closer to the truth it would still not be uite the book you might expect it to beAnd if I said that it has themes concerning the subjugation of labour and how the economic system is sustained by creating the conditions by which the working classes are convinced of their fundamental inferiority so they do nothing to remove their fetters – and that the heart that seeks freedom is also a lonely hunter – all this would be true too to a point and not true beyond that point There are parts of this book that made me think about Chomsky’s political writings and how dreadfully long the truth has been known about oppression and exploitation and how dreadfully long it has been clear what needs to be done And that this too is the part of the American tradition that is spoken of if at all only in whispers; for don’t you know they’re talking about a revolution in whispersAnd if I said this book is about coming of age and the loss of innocence and how becoming an adult is actually a kind of death which we might long for but where is lost than it seems we could possibly dare to lose If I said that the young woman in this who throughout the novel moves from being a child to becoming an adult even without some of the possible horrible things that could have happened to her not actually eventuating and yet she still basically loses everything by growing up – that would be mostly true tooAnd if I said that the book is about selfishness and how a moment’s decision or thoughtlessness can have horrible and irrevocable conseuences – well you might think you’ve read this book many times before – but again I think you would be wrongOr I could say that this is a book about how we fundamentally misunderstand others – for doesn’t everyone misunderstand project onto John Singer the deaf mute who is or less central to the story whatever it is they need him to be And isn’t Singer guilty of exactly the same human frailty with his own friend Antonapoulos I thought it was terribly clever of her to have Singer bring Antonapoulos a projector – I thought she was nearly god like as a writer at that pointWhat this book is really is a warning – not a warning that I might have written if I was to write a book like this – but a dark and terrible warning all the same Much darker and much terrible than I think I would be capable of writing No I couldn’t write a book like this and knowing that fills me with the deepest of regrets Because this is also a much optimistic book than I think I would be capable of writing tooMcCullers was 23 when she wrote this book – god the thought of it fills me with awe There are times when I would almost be prepared to believe that some people really do have older souls than the rest of us It is as incomprehensible that a 23 year old could write this book as it is to believe that a woman of only 22 years could have written Pride and Prejudice And the warning Well that you can be absolutely right in what you believe you can be standing on the side of righteousness and hold the truth shining in the palm of your hand and be doing everything in your power to improve the lot of your people – and you can still be only half human You can walk in the ways of the great project of your time you can know and you can spend your life seeking to show the ‘don’t knows’ so they too become part of the enlightened – and still you can be a damaged half a man We are barely human without our dreams but even when our dreams are not selfish and are directed at the greatest the most noble of aspirations we are still human all too humanThe scene with the two old men the one black and the other white arguing through the night until dawn about the best way to liberate those who are oppressed and unaware is achingly sad And why Because it is blindingly obvious to anyone with eyes that neither of these men could ever ‘mobilise the masses’ Their dreams are as just and pure and true as they are barren and impotent and without substance They shimmer and flap and torment them both – and thus is the human conditionOf all the characters I think perhaps Doctor Copeland is the most poignant He effectively loses his own children because they do not live up to his dreams for them his need for them to fight for his ideals This really is a key theme of the book that dreams not only have the power to make us human but can then over power us and make us something other than human too With the book being written at a time when Hitler was screaming at crowds of men standing with arms raised in salute this 23 year old woman had a much clearer vision of what was wrong with the world than I have ever been able to achieve And she tells of this vision in the only way it can be told in whispersThis really is a remarkable book – like nothing I imagined it to be and so much than I could ever have hoped

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Ger a lonely deaf mute and a disparate group of people who are drawn towards his kind sympathetic nature The owner of the café where Singer eats every day a young girl desperate to grow. I simply cannot get this book out of my head    Like most everyone else I am astounded that Carson McCullers was only 23 years old when she wrote this  Such wisdom and insight from someone so young is truly remarkable  And there are so many great reviews out there I just could not stop reading them  A great many of them as one might expect discuss the greater themes of this book and there can be no doubt that I too fell to pondering these many  things as I thought about the world todayI mean just think about itRacial ineuality and discriminationEconomic division of the classesSubjugation and objectification of women and minoritiesSocial InjusticeWarStill I would like to talk for just a minute or two about another constant thread within this story and perhaps the best way to begin is to tell you about something that happened to me  Way too many years ago when I was still  in the early stages of my career I got a promotion one that I had worked hard to be considered for  It was an important advancement for me  No longer was I only responsible for my own contribution but also for the output of others  As much as I wanted the opportunity to lead once I actually got it I was a nervous wreck  I’m sure my new boss sensed just how jangled I was and called me aside to have a little pow wow in his office  It was a good meeting and he uickly reviewed some of the tools that he believed would help me achieve my objectives but mostly he stressed that he wanted me to focus on one skill that his observations told him I already possessed  The skill of which he spoke was listening  He went on to add that far too many people forgot how to do it  That people got so wrapped up in determining just how they were going to respond to someone or a given situation that they actually stopped hearing what was being said to them   If you want to succeed he said do not fall into this trap  Listen carefully and not just with your ears he said but employ all of your faculties  If you can do this he assured me everything else would fall into place  Well that particular job really did not work out so well for me and I soon moved on to a new opportunity with a different firm but I never forgot that first pep talk  Over the years that came and went I thought about it freuently and reminded myself often to focus on what others had to say than on my own words  And not just professionally either but at home and in other social situations  Wise words  that despite floundering on than one occasion have served me well these many years It is also what our five main characters in this novel yearn for  Someone to listen to them  For Mick Jake Biff and Dr Copeland that person was John Singer  Despite the fact that he was deaf and mute they all believed that he understood them and for Mick he even provided a way for her to listen to her beloved music  John Singer however had lost his only audience when they took Antonapoulos away and even though he was never really sure how much of what he signed Antonapoulos actually understood it did not matter  He too needed to be heard  There are so many layers to this story but through them all lay this need to be heard and to be understoodHow ominous is it that I find myself reflecting on the art of listening  just one week before Donald Trump becomes the President of the most powerful democratic nation in the worldThe Heart is a Lonely Hunter is timeless profound and a thing of rare beauty

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The Heart Is a Lonely HunterUp an angry drunkard a frustrated black doctor each pours their heart out to Singer their silent confidant and he in turn changes their disenchanted lives in ways they could never imagi. Each year I attempt to participate in classics bingo in the group catching up on classics This year so far so good I gave a lot of thought as to which classic book I wanted to use for my classic of North America suare There are a few authors that come to mind as classic American authors where each piece of literature written by them reads like a story being told on one's front porch The names Hemingway and Steinbeck first come to my mind along with that of Carson McCullers Distinctly southern and writing about the human condition during the era in which she lived Carson McCullers is a literary treasure My mother owns the complete set of her writing in one volume and I have previously read Member of a Wedding which was a gem It comes as little surprise then that I selected McCullers' definitive work The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter for my classic of North America suare this year as her work comes straight from the heart and is a joy to readI can not say much about The Heart is a Lonely Hunter that has not been written before Taking place in a Georgia mill town during the Great Depression McCullers writes of the trials and travails that occurred during that time The town could have been her own and the female protagonist Mick Kelly could been McCullers when she was younger She speaks out about racism fascism the rights of the disabled as well as the depression through the alternating chapters told through the eyes of her archetypal protagonists Singer Biff Brannon Jake Blount Doctor Benedict Copeland and Mick Kelly Readers find a woman ahead of her time in that she views blacks Jews whites men and women as euals and this was during the 1930s Perhaps the fact that McCullers was all of twenty three years of age when she wrote this timeless novel speaks to her views of society in that her generation did not emerge as leaders until the later 1940s when people did start to speak out against racism and lack of rights for women Published in 1940 McCullers work was slightly ahead of its time and most likely eye opening for manyWith blacks and whites Jews and gentiles unmarried men and women sharing dialogue in the south McCullers work is refreshing for this era as well as the country has become as polarized as it was during the times of separate but eual Each of her protagonists had much to say about society and each had a plan as to how to better themselves and the world that they lived in The world needs people like Doctor Copeland Biff Brannon Jake Blount Singer and Mick Kelly Yet they are a thing of the past and many of their inclusive views with them The literary world also needs writers like Carson McCullers who spoke her mind from a young age Her work remains as timeless as ever and her Georgia mill town an archetype for forward thinking people Carson McCullers work should be viewed as North American classic writing and I look forward to reading of it in the coming year5 timeless stars