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You are the we of me

Joyce Carol Oates: The Autobiography of Carson McCullers

2 September 1999
Illumination and Night Glare: The Unfinished Autobiography of Carson​ McCullers 
edited by Carlos Dews.
Wisconsin, 256 pp., £19.95, September 1999, 0 299 16440 3
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... her in which she was to have no part. The Member of the Wedding How to account for the vagaries of literary reputation? In the Forties and early Fifties, such disparate, talented young writers as CarsonMcCullers, Truman Capote and Flannery O’Connor were perceived as kindred; there was a highly publicised vogue of American Southern Gothic writing, abetted by photographs of the very camp Truman ...

Aviators and Movie Stars

Patricia Lockwood: Carson McCullers

18 October 2017
Stories, Plays and Other Writings 
by Carson McCullers.
Library of America, 672 pp., £33.99, January 2017, 978 1 59853 511 2
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... of America collection of her stories, plays and other writings is by Carl Van Vechten, and it is one of those images that seems to demonstrate the soul is real, like spirit photography. My study of CarsonMcCullers began when I was a teenager, as any study of her should. On one of our family outings to the bookstore, I picked up a mass-market paperback of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, with all the ...

Someone Else

Peter Campbell

17 April 1986
In the American West 
by Richard Avedon.
Thames and Hudson, 172 pp., £40, October 1985, 0 500 54110 8
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by Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Thames and Hudson, 283 pp., £35, October 1985, 0 500 54109 4
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... that Cartier-Bresson’s way of working produces no greater truth than Avedon’s. A difference between the two collections is that many of Cartier-Bresson’s sitters are famous: Sartre, Bonnard, CarsonMcCullers, Edmund Wilson. The pictures seem to reinforce what we know of the sitters, and also to be direct evidence of the truth of what we know. But the evidence is really little more direct than ...

Dressed in Blue Light

Amy Larocca: Gypsy Rose Lee

11 March 2010
Stripping Gypsy: The Life of Gypsy Rose Lee 
by Noralee Frankel.
Oxford, 300 pp., £12.99, June 2009, 978 0 19 536803 1
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Gypsy: The Art of the Tease 
by Rachel Shteir.
Yale, 222 pp., £12.99, March 2009, 978 0 300 12040 0
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... once said. Her serious ambitions all came to sad ends. She wanted to be a writer, so she moved for a while to 7 Middagh, a writers’ commune in Brooklyn Heights, where she hung out with Auden and CarsonMcCullers and posed in a special writer’s outfit (baggy trousers, glasses) for Life magazine. But the book she produced – a thriller called The G-String Murders – was pulp and treated as such ...
5 September 1985
The Kindness of Strangers: The Life of Tennessee Williams 
by Donald Spoto.
Bodley Head, 409 pp., £12.95, May 1985, 0 370 30847 6
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Tennessee Williams on File 
by Catherine Arnott.
Methuen, 80 pp., £7.95, May 1985, 0 413 58550 6
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... might-have-beens of theatrical history. Always fun to be with, Williams knocked about with a great many celebrities, though only a few of these make significant appearances in Spoto’s story. CarsonMcCullers, unstable like Rose before her operation, was one he repeatedly helped. An endearing tableau: Tennessee, convinced as usual that he was dying and that the current play would be his last ...
10 December 1987
Meeting the British 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 53 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 0 571 14858 1
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Partingtime Hall 
by James Fenton and John Fuller.
Salamander, 69 pp., £7.50, April 1987, 0 948681 05 5
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Private Parts 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Chatto, 72 pp., £4.95, June 1987, 9780701132064
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Bright River Yonder 
by John Hartley Williams.
Bloodaxe, 87 pp., £4.95, April 1987, 1 85224 028 8
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... is most vivid in ‘7, Middagh Street’. 7, Middagh Street was the three-storey brownstone rented by George Davis – literary editor of Harper’s Bazaar at the time – and tenanted by Auden, CarsonMcCullers, Benjamin Britten and Gypsy Rose Lee; shorter-term residents included Louis MacNeice, Auden’s lover Chester Kallman and Salvador Dali. The poem consists of a monologue by each of these ...
29 August 1991
Letters from a Life: The Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten Vol. I 1923-39, Vol. II 1939-45 
edited by Donald Mitchell and Philip Reed.
Faber, 1403 pp., £75, June 1991, 9780571152216
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... clung to him; he always liked to be what Auden would call ‘comfy’. The bohemian life he knew in the weird Brooklyn establishment presided over by Auden, and shared by Gipsy Rose Lee, CarsonMcCullers and other irregulars, was fun in a way but far from comfy. He hated the mess, preferring the comforts and cossetings he got at Mrs Mayer’s house on Long Island. ‘I can’t live wildly and work ...

Just How It was

Anne Hollander: The work of Henri Cartier-Bresson

7 May 1998
Tête à Tête: Portraits by Henri Cartier-Bresson 
edited by E.H. Gombrich.
Thames and Hudson, 144 pp., £32, February 1998, 9780500542187
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Henri Cartier-Bresson: Europeans 
edited by Jean Clair.
Thames and Hudson, 231 pp., £29.95, January 1998, 0 500 28052 5
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... cup, the pencil, the book, the cigarette – especially the latter, the modern emblem of private reflection, the sign that the subject is most himself? Or herself: here are Susan Sontag (1972) and CarsonMcCullers (1946), each raising a dark gaze to us under a brow tense with thought each reaching to poise a cigarette over an ashtray. Giacometti (1961) stares nose-to-nose into the face of a bust he ...

Spells of Levitation

Lorna Sage: Deborah Eisenberg

3 September 1998
All around Atlantis 
by Deborah Eisenberg.
Granta, 232 pp., £8.99, March 1998, 1 86207 161 6
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... for Eisenberg, they shouldn’t be carried away, because they only work in this order, in this moment. So if I say she’s a bit like James, a touch reminiscent of Mary McCarthy, and even more of CarsonMcCullers at some moments, I’m reading against the grain of her texts. It’s hard to think of another contemporary short-story writer who invests so much in the form’s utopian possibilities: its ...
7 February 1991
Jean Stafford: The Savage Heart 
by Charlotte Margolis Goodman.
Texas, 394 pp., $24.95, May 1990, 0 292 74022 0
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Jean Stafford: A Biography 
by David Roberts.
Chatto, 494 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7011 3010 5
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... home-made haircut. Stafford expressed her ambivalence over her body and sexual identity first through anorexia, and then through cross-dressing and gender conflicts that remind us of Willa Cather or CarsonMcCullers. At 12 she had her picture taken wearing her father’s suit and hat; in high school, a friend noted, the lanky Jean ‘looked like a boy with a dress on’. In her unpublished novel In the ...

His v. Hers

Mark Ford

9 March 1995
In Touch: The Letters of Paul Bowles 
edited by Jeffrey Miller.
HarperCollins, 604 pp., £25, October 1994, 0 00 255535 2
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... alas, shed all that much light on the couple’s first years together, which were spent mainly in Mexico and New York, where they took up residence at 7 Middagh Street with Auden, Benjamin Britten, CarsonMcCullers and Co. The book includes only a handful of letters from the period 1938 (when they married) to 1947, during which time Jane Bowles – immeasurably the greater writer – composed just ...

To be like us isn’t easy

Emily Cooke: Dorothy Baker

20 June 2013
Young Man with a Horn 
by Dorothy Baker.
NYRB, 185 pp., £8.99, March 2012, 978 1 59017 577 4
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Cassandra at the Wedding 
by Dorothy Baker.
NYRB, 241 pp., £8.99, September 2012, 978 1 59017 601 6
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... child – and another on the way – and didn’t write another book for a decade. The fourth and final novel, Cassandra at the Wedding (1962), did better, winning the admiration of Alfred Kazin and CarsonMcCullers. Still, a good portion of the 1962 interview concerns Baker’s sense of failure. Twenty-five years into her career, she was not among the handful of writers considered the very best. The ...

Good Fibs

Andrew O’Hagan: Truman Capote

2 April 1998
Truman Capote: In which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career 
by George Plimpton.
Picador, 498 pp., £20, February 1998, 0 330 36871 0
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... becomes involved with his cousin, Randolph, a wasted aesthete of no fixed accent and fathomless disappointments. It is not an original setting, in fact rather standard, if one thinks of Faulkner and CarsonMcCullers and others of the Southern Gothic, with their yellow-eyed mamas and idiot boys. But there is a patience in Capote’s novel, a surprising charity, a seamlessly variegated emotion, that ...

Not in My House

Mark Ford: Flannery O’Connor

23 July 2009
Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor 
by Brad Gooch.
Little, Brown, 448 pp., £20, May 2009, 978 0 316 00066 6
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... agreed to be interviewed for an arts programme on television. While undoubtedly her profile was lower than that of the other two main contemporary proponents of Southern Gothic, Truman Capote and CarsonMcCullers (both of whose work she detested), she was by no means publicity-shy. Her letters are lively and affectionate, though also at times, as one would expect, on the caustic side; they help ...

The Wrong Blond

Alan Bennett

23 May 1985
Auden in Love 
by Dorothy Farnan.
Faber, 264 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 571 13399 1
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... weekly visits to the opera in rented tuxedos and dinners in Auden’s Brooklyn household, where, among others regularly passing the (obligatory) potatoes, were Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, CarsonMcCullers, Lincoln Kirstein and Gipsy Rose Lee. When love comes to the confirmed bachelor old friends find it difficult to take. Chums winced to see T.S. Eliot spooning with wife No 2, smirked when ...

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