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McCullers, Carson.

Ballad of the Sad Café, The.


Inscribed to Lousie Dahl-Wolfe
McCullers, Carson. The Ballad Of The Sad Café. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, (1951).
8vo.; preliminaries lightly tanned; orange paper-covered boards, tips lightly bumped.
First edition of the collection whose title story Edward Albee would adapt for the stage over a decade later. It recounts the story of:  
[A]n Amazon, Miss Amelia, whose toughness is softened-and whose moonshine and manners are improved-by her love for her dwarf, hunchbacked cousin Lymon, who deserts Miss Amelia when her former husband, Marvin Macy, enters the scene…. Miss Amelia and Lymon's love had been doomed because of the strange, dissimilar experience of the lover and the beloved, who "come from different countries." As McCullers explains in the story: "The beloved fears and hates the lover, and with the best of reasons. For the lover is forever trying to strip bare his beloved. The lover craves any possible relation with the beloved, even if this experience can cause him only pain."
A touching presentation copy, inscribed on the front endpaper by McCullers at the height of her illness, in a painfully shaky hand: For Louise and Mike, With all love and admiration, Carson. Following the inscription, McCullers has drawn a small and simple heart. The use of the emblematic heart in a presentation is something McCullers reserved for her closest friends.
The forties and fifties were a time of professional success and personal disaster for Carson. Influenza, pleurisy, strokes, and suicide attempts-solo and with McCullers, whom she had remarried and who successfully killed himself in 1953-punctuated productive stays at Yaddo, work with Tennessee Williams (who helped adapt The Member of the Wedding for the phenomenally successful stage run), numerous European travels, a Guggenheim, and Quick magazine's statement that she was among the best postwar writers in America.  
These stories, like all of McCullers's work, has strains of the autobiographical; The Ballad in particular
seems to derive from her tragic experiences with love: with Reeves, who could not live with Carson; with Annemarie, who could not devote herself exclusively to Carson; and with [David] Diamond, who could not allow either Carson or Reeves to swallow up his own talent. McCullers herself noted the autobiographical element in her fiction: "Everything significant that has happened in my fiction has also happened to me-or it will happen, eventually." The Ballad of the Sad Café, according to Oliver Evans, "must be one of the saddest stories in any language-not merely on the surface level of narrative . . . [but] on the level of parable."
("Carson McCullers," Modern American Women Writers, by Cheryl B. Torsney, NY: Scribner's, 1991, pp. 279-86.)

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