The Ballad of the Sad Cafe and Other Stories, Carson McCullers 1951

This collection of 7 short stories by the southern writer Carson McCullers was another one of Susan Hill’s Final Forty, but for the life of me I couldn’t find her comments about why she chose this volume instead of McCullers’ better  known The Member of the Wedding or the Heart is a Lonely Hunter. At any rate, I’m glad she did because these are finely done, memorable tales.  The eponymous first story tells the tale of Miss Amelia Evans and her short lived marriage to Marvin Macy and her love for her ‘hunchback’ cousin Lymon Willis.  It’s a story about the unequal and fraught relationship between the lover and the beloved in these three couples (yes,Lymon eventually leaves Amelia for Marvin. go figure)and the terrible outcomes when this disproportion is way beyond the acceptable range.  The other stories are nuggets of memorable characters and events.  McCullers specializes in setting the stage, putting the characters in motion, and stopping the action just short of resolution so the reader is left to ‘fill in the blanks.’ producing tension at the stories’ conclusions.  This slim volume would make a good companion on a 2-3 hour flight if we ever get back to flying and traveling again.

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