The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers

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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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3 thoughts on “The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers

  1. Timing is everything, as they say. 🙂 This book is on my ‘to be read’ list for this summer. I recently read (and reviewed on my blog) McCullers’ ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.’ Thanks for reviewing this particular book; you’ve spurred me to move it up in my reading queue.


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