Carson McCullers The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (1951)
I found this faded Bantam Books paperback edition from 1971 for $.50. It was on a discount books cart outside the wonderfully indie Inquiring Minds Bookstore in New Paltz, NY (I’m a frequent buyer) and the pulp illustration on the cover grabbed my attention. I’m also a fan of Southern Gothic and knew that Ms. McCullers would be spinning quite a story inside the yellowing pages.
I sat down to read the novella at my small dining room table and finished about three hours later, haunted and changed for the better for having read it. I found myself breathing heavily and moving my arms and body along with the characters as I read the descriptions of action in the story. At the end of the story I closed the book and said, “Wow. That was a story.”
I found myself thinking about Miss Amelia, Marvin Macy and Cousin Lymon all day today. The loneliness and sorrow that permeate this story will follow you around like a stray dog on a back-country road begging for a scrap of meat just before it falls over dead from starvation. It’s that devastating.
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