Book: The Ballad of the Sad Café and Other Stories
Author: Carson McCullers
Published: 1971 (this edition, Bantam)
These read as Flannery O’Connor light, as in these stories strongly remind me of that more famous authoress and her favorite tropes without making me feel quite as depressed about mankind. O’Connor’s hypothesis seems to be that all people are evil if you give them a chance; McCullers concentrates on pure oddness that still goes bad a lot of times but also has redemptive qualities that nobody knows what to do with.
There’s a detached air of mystery about all the characters, which include a tough country broad and her hunchback distant cousin (in the title novella “The Ballad of the Sad Café”), a young piano prodigy who has to deal with giant expectations that she can’t fulfill (in “Wunderkind”), a transplanted European music teacher with delusions of grandeur that bother the hell out of her new boss for reasons he can’t explain (in “Madame Zilensky and the King of Finland”—I call dibs on that band name), and a jockey who is losing his touch and gaining weight and frustrated to the point of violence about it all (in “The Jockey”).
They’re interesting stories mined from everyday life and told in beautifully simple prose. I can't get enough of that.