Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What I'm Reading: The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

I’m only about a third of the way through The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, but I’m finding so much to admire that I have to write about it. Part I is like an Edward Hopper painting come to life, and this locale is as precise as it is Anyplace. The loneliness and yearning seep from the pages leaving this reader rather breathless and sad and feeling deepened in some profound way.

The book is an excellent model for any writer who wants to learn how to:
--manage shifting points of view
--create atmosphere
--create setting
--choose vivid details
--write superb physical descriptions
--write flawless sentences that nevertheless don’t draw too much attention to themselves
--capture the ineffableness of music in words
--use dialect
--create distinct and varied characters

And, of course, what an amazing title! (She said jealously.)

Plotwise, it’s a very quiet book, yet there’s such a sense of fragility that right now I don’t want to look up any websites and accidentally find out what’s going to happen to this collection of misfits. I’ll just note that McCullers was only 23 when this book was published, and Tennessee Williams wrote that she “owned the heart, and the deep understanding of it, but in addition she had that ‘tongue of angels’ that gave her power to sing of it, to make of it an anthem.”


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.