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The Ballad of the Sad Cafe: and Other Stories Paperback – April 5, 2005
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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What is this thing called love? Who is this hunchback who came into town and bewitched Miss Amelia and awakened the bleak little town? We quickly learn that his name is Cousin Lymon and that he has the ability to make a connection with everyone with whom he comes in contact, including Miss Amelia. Within a short period of time, Miss Amelia's store is transformed into a café where the townspeople come together to eat, drink, and be merry. It remains the gathering place until the night that Cousin Lymon shows his true colors.
In her uniquely skillful way, McCullers tells a story of love and the different and surprising twists it can take. Marvin Macy loves Miss Amelia, but she doesn't love him. She, however, comes to love Cousin Lymon who appears to care for her until Marvin Macy comes back into this desolate little town after a stint in the penitentiary. Cousin Lymon then falls for Macy who doesn't give him the proverbial time of day. The plot thickens.
This is not a happily ever after book, but it's one well worth reading, especially if you want to see writing at its best. The descriptions of the people and their environment and emotions are superb. For example, after reading this description of Miss Amelia, I think I'd recognize her anywhere: "a dark, tall woman with bones and muscles like a man. Her hair was cut short and brushed back from the forehead and there was about her sunburned face a tense, haggard quality. She might have been a handsome woman, if, even then, she was not slightly cross-eyed."
Unrequited love, the need for human contact, revenge, and betrayal are some of the themes that run throughout the book. Reading it reminded me that love can take us to the heights and depths of emotion and that we are just as likely to fall in love with those who are bad for us as with those who are our perfect matches.
If you are a reader, read this book, I guarantee you'll never forget it.
These stories were definitely more revealing of the author's quirkiness than were my two much loved novels. Quirkiness aside, I could read Carson McCullers for her language alone. From the story from which the book gets its name - "It was toward midnight on the soft quiet evening in April. The sky was the color of blue swamp Iris, the moon clear and bright".
"Down by the creek the square brick factory was yellow with light". "His face was both soft and sassy". "It was not a common thing to have an unknown hunchback walk to the store at midnight and then sit down and cry". --why, I'd sleep like I was drowned in warm axle grease". "Stumpy MacPhail". These were just some of the characters in Miss Amelia's liquor filled Sad Cafe. There were only "3 good people" and "The room was still as death". This story and most of the others put me in mind of O Henry's stories in their artful turn of phrases, unique language and quirkiness of characters and circumstances.
There is humor, drama, ridiculousness, an "interior life that is insufficient without the artifice of alcohol" and an absurd little tale about a callous cafe owner, a man who may or may not be crazy who tells a young boy wearing an aviator type helmet that he loves him.
Like most of McCullers stories, they are about loneliness and love and love loss. However, none of the stories hold a candle to the novels, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter or my favorite, The Member of the Wedding, but they are written by Carson McCullers, reason enough to read them.