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The Lonely Hunter: A Biography of Carson McCullers Hardcover – January, 1975

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--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews


"Sensitive, balanced, authoritative . . . A work of prodigious research and unblinking honesty—the kind of biography that leaves the reader replete with the sense of having vicariously experienced a life as it was lived."--New York Times

"Fascinating . . . From the pages of The Lonely Hunter emerges the essential spirit of a consequential and controversial American writer."--New York Times Book Review

"Carr's biography is full, sympathetic, and frank. She knows Carson McCullers's life and work inside out."--Newsweek

"Likely to become the definitive biography of McCullers"--Library Journal

“Admirable . . . Offers the best picture we are likely to get of an almost incomprehensibly neurotic personality."--New Yorker
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Virginia Spencer Carr holds the John B. and Elena Diaz-Verson Amos Distinguished Chair in English at Georgia State University. Her books include Understanding Carson McCullers, Dos Passos: A Life, and a biography of Paul Bowles.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 600 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Books; 1st edition (January 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385040288
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385040280
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 2.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #584,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 6 customer reviews
This is a dense book, full of detail, covering McCullers' entire life.
It has been interesting to read about how McCullers worked, and how she drew inspiration from real life events, acquaintances and their own tales.
Renee Thorpe
As I read on, I became addicted to this biography of an author who was both a genius and tormented soul!
Don R. Greenwood

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

95 of 95 people found the following review helpful By Renee Thorpe on March 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
Impressively detailed account of the life of one of America's great southern writers.
In her lifetime, Carson McCullers was many things to many people, and the conflicting accounts are fascinating. She could be very charming and attentive, a soft-spoken original with deeply engaging, large eyes. But she was a difficult friend to many, becoming obsessively clingy and demanding of attention. A bitch and an angel; as unshakably sulky or as light-hearted as a child. Her hair she always carefully brushed, and yet sometimes she wore outfits so outlandish, she was mistaken for a tramp. (that's hobo, not slut). She was a sensitive and imaginative author who touched many hearts with her unsentimental writings about human longing.
Reading this book has been a strange ride. As impartial as the text is, it is next-to-impossible to avoid getting emotional as the reader, as I will explain in a moment.
The biographer has done a fantastic job of getting those who knew Carson to come forward with their various memories. It is very well-written, with family trees, thorough footnotes, many voices, interesting photos, an appendix consisting of summarized events in McCullers' life, and an excellent index. A generally well-edited and constructed biography, I find no fault with the biographer. It's the life of Carson McCullers that is so twisted and sour. That said, there are fun stories about living with Gypsy Rose Lee and of staying at Yaddo, the famous writers' retreat. But Carson's life was not easy. Tales of her drinking and near-delusional imagination, of her horrendous fights with husband Reeves McCullers, of lingering ill health, and of her leeching on friends has made reading this quite impartial book a considerably saddening adventure.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By T. M. Johnson on August 16, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Out of respect for the work ethic, add an extra half star to this review. Of the many biographies I have read, Virginia Spencer Carr's "The Lonely Hunter" is by far the most torturous. As I slogged through 537 pages chronicling the life and times of this talented but complex personality, I couldn't help but think of the young schoolboy who when his teacher observed he showed an interest in sharks, brought him a book on that subject. Later she asked her student if he had learned much about sharks. The boy replied, "Yes, more than I wanted to know." One certainly can't accuse Ms. Carr of not doing her research (21 pages of source citations) in McCullers' biography. It's as if she needs to account for every hour of her subject's life. Like Carson's omnipresent thermos of hot tea and sherry, we are asked to sip every detail of her life to the very last drop.

I read "The Lonely Hunter" to learn more about a young woman who at the age of twenty-three wrote the wonderful novel "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter." I was intrigued by how Carson, at such a young age, could write that poignant story with a skill and wisdom that comes only with practice and life experience. In this regard Carr delivers. She explains McCullers' fascination with "fringe" people, those human beings who because of physical, mental or social defects walk the darker paths of humankind. Thus the deaf mute John Singer in "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter." Carson's "we of me" concept, a sort of psychic menage a trois, many of which involved McCullers herself during her life, translates to similar relationships between the pages of her books.The young girl Mick Kelly in Carson's novel has her "inner room," where she keeps her dreams, her goals, her love of music, an expression of McCuller's own talent for and devotion to music.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Alice on June 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read biographies of artists...mostly writers. This is a dense book, full of detail, covering McCullers' entire life. If you prefer memoirs written in the genre "creative non-fiction," then you probably won't be drawn into this book. But if you have read a lot of biographies, as I have, and are used to the non-active and somewhat dry academic narratives that are found in these types of books, and are interested in the life that brought about McCuller's timeless work, you will find this biography to be one of the best. It is respectful, and also fascinating to those of us who consider McCullers to have been a literary and artistic genius.
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