NY Times Reviews the Carson McCullers Bio

The ‘Sad, Happy Life’ of Carson McCullers

A new biography chronicles this essential American writer’s complicated love life, celebrated career and singular talents.

By Dwight Garner


Mary V. Dearborn’s new book, “Carson McCullers: A Life,” is the first major biography of this essential American writer in more than 20 years. It is competent and professional, as if built from solid pine and good plaster. It is dispassionate and well researched. Reading it is brutal because McCullers’s life was brutal to endure.

It is Dearborn’s poor luck that the best-known biography, Virginia Spencer Carr’s “The Lonely Hunter” (1975), is a masterpiece of the form, as formidable in its way as Leon Edel’s life of Henry James. Carr’s book is a dense work of literature as well as a biography, and it contains vastly more detail, nuance, savvy, twisted humanity and practical magic.

Contrast, to take the easiest example at hand, these books’ openings. Here are Dearborn’s first two sentences:

Carson McCullers titled one of her first, more directly autobiographical stories “Wunderkind.” She was just such a child — which was, as with so many talented children, both a blessing and a curse.

Read the full review at the New York Times.

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