Carson McCullers was an American who wrote fiction, often described as Southern Gothic, that explores the spiritual isolation of misfits and outcasts of the South.
From 1935 to 1937 she divided her time, as her studies and health dictated, between Columbus and New York and in September 1937 she married an ex-soldier and aspiring writer, Reeves McCullers. They began their married life in Charlotte, North Carolina where Reeves had found some work. There, and in Fayetteville, North Carolina, she wrote her first novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, in the Southern Gothic tradition.
The title, suggested by McCullers's editor, was taken from Fiona MacLeod's poem "The Lonely Hunter." However, many (including Carson McCullers) claim she wrote in the style of Southern Realism, a genre inspired by Russian Realism. The novel itself was interpreted as an anti-fascist book. Altogether she published eight books.
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940), written at the age of twenty-three, Reflections in a Golden Eye (1941), and The Member of the Wedding (1946), are the best-known. The novella The Ballad of the Sad Cafe (1951) also depicts loneliness and the pain of unrequited love. She was an alumna of Yaddo in Saratoga, New York.
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter was filmed in 1968 with Alan Arkin in the lead role. Reflections in a Golden Eye was directed by John Huston (1967), starring Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor. Some of the film was shot in New York City and on Long Island, where Huston was permitted to use an abandoned Army installation.
Many of the interiors and some of the exteriors were done in Italy. "I first met Carson McCullers during the war when I was visiting Paulette Goddard and Burgess Meredith in upstate New York," said Huston in An Open Book (1980).
"Carson lived nearby, and one day when Buzz and I were out for a walk she hailed us from her doorway. She was then in her early twenties, and had already suffered the first of a series of strokes. I remember her as a fragile thing with great shining eyes, and a tremor in her hand as she placed it in mine. It wasn't palsy, rather a quiver of animal timidity. But there was nothing timid or frail about the manner in which Carson McCullers faced life. And as her afflictions multiplied, she only grew stronger."
After lifelong health problems including severe alcoholism, McCullers died of brain hemorrhage.