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The Member of the Wedding

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Author: Carson McCullers
First published: 1946, by Houghton Mifflin

What I say to people about Carson McCullers is that when you walk down a street with Carson McCullers, you walk down a street with Carson McCullers. McCullers leaves no proverbial leaf unturned, no detail unnoticed, and given the rich Southern people, places, and events that populate her history, there is a lot to notice. She is relentless in her detail, insistent with floods of mood and atmosphere, unrelenting when it comes to creating an uneasy “feeling” in the room, much like the British sensation novelists were in the 19th-century.

Her voice is uniquely conversational, as if you were listening to her tell the story over coffee, and The Member of the Wedding is a story that I never get tired of hearing. What I love about it is that, almost literally, every sentence is packed with intrigue—whether it is describing one of those walks down the street, or relaying some of the more crucial points of the plot. I mean look at this description of a hotel room:

In the light of the bare electric bulb that hung down from the ceiling, the room looked hard and very ugly. The flaked iron bed had been slept in and a suitcase of jumbled soldier’s clothes lay open in the middle of the floor. On the light oak bureau there was a glass pitcher full of water and a half-eaten package of cinnamon rolls covered with blue-white icing and fat flies.

You just can’t beat that! She also does a lot of the same thing Fitzgerald does—uses unlikely words to create mood, shadows, and lighting (i.e. “blue-white icing”).

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