Carson McCullers Additional Biography


(Short Stories for Students)

Born in Columbus, Georgia, in 1917, young Lula Carson Smith studied for years as a concert pianist, practicing five hours a day. Like the...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

The southern writer William Faulkner said the only thing worth writing about is “the human heart in conflict with itself.” By that standard, few have surpassed Carson McCullers, for she probed the tormented recesses of inner emotions. Tracking problems of loneliness and love to their lair within the heart, she found joy mingled with suffering so intense that her characters may seem grotesque. Nevertheless, her readers gain insights into life as it actually is lived. Neither sentimental nor moralistic, McCullers’s novels make a more solid impact on the imagination than does merely sensational or experimental fiction.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Carson McCullers, born Lula Carson Smith, was reared in a small southern town, a milieu that she used in much of her fiction. Exhibiting early talent in both writing and music, she intended to become a concert pianist but lost her tuition money for the Juilliard School of Music when she went to New York in 1935. This loss led her to get part-time jobs while studying writing at Columbia University. She earned early acclaim for her first novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, written when she was only twenty-two. Her friends included many prominent writers, including Tennessee Williams, W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice, and Richard Wright. Her health was always delicate; she suffered early paralyzing strokes, breast cancer, and pneumonia. She stayed remarkably active in literature and drama, however, even when confined to bed and wheelchair. She died of a stroke at the age of fifty.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Carson McCullers was born Lula Carson Smith on February 19, 1917, in Columbus, Georgia. Marguarite Smith, McCullers’s mother, was very early convinced that her daughter was an artistic genius and sacrificed herself and, to some extent, McCullers’s father, brother, and sister, to the welfare of her gifted child. McCullers grew up, therefore, with a peculiar kind of shyness and emotional dependence on her mother, combined with supreme self-confidence about her abilities. McCullers announced early in life that she was going to be a concert pianist, and she indeed displayed a precocious talent in that direction. Smith placed her daughter under the tutelage of Mary Tucker, a concert musician, who agreed that McCullers was talented....

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(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Carson McCullers was born Lula Carson Smith in Columbus, Georgia, a small town that resembles the setting of most of her works. As a child, McCullers studied the piano and was considered a prodigy, much like the main character in her critically acclaimed short story “Wunderkind” (1936), which is about fifteen-year-old Frances’ aspirations to become a great pianist and her awakened sexuality. Like many of McCullers’ short stories, “Wunderkind” is written in the Bildungsroman tradition, portraying adolescent initiation and search for identity. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and The Member of the Wedding also portray adolescent females searching for identity and struggling with complex internal questions. Clock Without Hands (1961) illustrates adolescent initiation experiences defined as a young mulatto man’s search for knowledge of his birth parents and his African American heritage.

McCullers’ portrayal of African American identities often demonstrates racial social injustices that occurred in America before the Civil Rights movement. Racial bias intensifies her African American characters’ isolated feelings.

When she was seventeen, McCullers moved to New York, where she studied creative writing at Columbia University. Although she frequently returned to the South because of recurring illnesses, she felt ambivalent about her Southern heritage, saying her visits to the South brought about “a stirring up of love and antagonism.”

McCullers experienced bisexual sexual identity throughout her early adulthood. In 1937, she married Reeves McCullers, and they lived in North Carolina until 1940, when they moved to the February House, where many well-known artists resided in New York. In 1940, McCullers fell in love with Annemarie Clarac-Schwarzenbach, to whom she dedicated her second novel, Reflections in a Golden Eye. In many of her works, McCullers depicts bisexual and androgynous characters.

In 1941, Carson divorced Reeves. She later remarried him, but because of declining health she frequently stayed with her mother and sister in Nyack, New York. She planned another divorce from Reeves in 1953, when he committed suicide. Although poor health affected her writing after 1947, her play The Square Root of Wonderful opened on Broadway in 1958. Her final novel, Clock Without Hands, presents issues related to McCullers’ struggle with poor health. In the novel, J. T. Malone learns he has leukemia and faces death. McCullers died in 1967, having lived fifty years.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Carson McCullers’s life was one beset by intolerable illnesses and complex personal relationships. The last twenty years of her life were spent in the shadow of constant physical pain, but like her fellow southerner Flannery O’Connor, she continued working in spite of her handicaps, seldom complaining. She was married twice to the same man, an emotional cripple who drained her financially and psychically and who ultimately killed himself. That she left behind her a magnificent body of work and any number of devoted friends when she died at the tragically young age of fifty is a testament to the courage with which overwhelming obstacles can be overcome.

McCullers knew at first hand the small-town South that figures...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111206377-Mccullers2.jpg Carson McCullers. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Lula Carson Smith McCullers is widely regarded as one of the finest writers of the twentieth century, though critics argue over whether her writing should be classified as southern gothic or metaphysical. McCullers, who was born in Columbus, Georgia, on February 19, 1917, did not aspire to become a writer at all. Her parents, Lamar and Marguerite (Waters) Smith, had started her on piano lessons at a very early age, and music was the career forecast for her; a music teacher, Mary Tucker, played a large part in her early life. At the age of seventeen, McCullers was sent to the Juilliard School of Music in New York to become a concert pianist. By the time McCullers had arrived in New York, however, she had already lost her enthusiasm...

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(Drama for Students)

Carson McCullers was born Lula Carson Smith in Columbus, Georgia, on February 19, 1917. Like the adolescent girl Frankie in her novel, The...

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(Drama for Students)

Carson McCullers Published by Gale Cengage

Carson McCullers was born Lula Carson Smith on February 19, 1917, in Columbus, Georgia. Mc- Cullers’s mother had early intuitions that her daughter was destined for greatness. Consequently, as a child, McCullers was lavished with attention by her mother to the exclusion of her two other siblings. Her musical ability became apparent at an early age, and when she graduated from high school, she was sent to the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York City. Because her family could not afford such an expensive school, they sold a family heirloom ring to pay the tuition. Before she enrolled, however, McCullers’s roommate lost all of their money, and McCullers was forced to take odd jobs instead of attending Juilliard. She...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Born Lula Carson Smith, McCullers was raised in a town near a big Army post in rural southwest Georgia by a successful jeweler and a remarkable mother who encouraged her genius. An aloof, precocious child, she longed to be rich and famous and live in the snowy North. By the age of eight years, she was producing little plays with neighbor children. At ten she took piano lessons and aspired to play concerts onstage. It is said that she read every worthwhile book in the local library. At fifteen, she came down with rheumatic fever, misdiagnosed at the time, which led to debilitating illnesses later.

After high school, her parents sold heirloom jewelry so she could sail to New York and study at the prestigious Juilliard...

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(Novels for Students)

McCullers was born Lulu Carson Smith on February 19, 1917, in Columbus, Georgia. Her family had deep roots in the South: her...

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