Eudora Welty v. Carson McCullers

Ann Waldron’s Eudora: A Writer’s Life is replete with cliches, bland writing, and baseless conclusions, but she still manages to knock one of my literary heroes down a few pegs. Take this bit about Yaddo, for instance:

To Eudora’s horror, Carson McCullers was in residence, and not only present but openly, loudly, maniacally in love with Katherine Anne Porter. Dressed in dungarees and a man’s white shirt, she followed Katherine Anne around and once threw herself across the doorsill of Katherine Anne’s room. Porter, who had a deathly fear of lesbians, was repelled by McCuller’s [sic] adoration and clung more closely than ever to Eudora, who she said was “150 percent female.”

Like a weed, Eudora said, McCullers would come back no matter what you did to her, “but one day she will simply poison herself.” That was a mixed metaphor, she said, but she mixed it with her own hand because she meant it for a potion.

In last weekend’s Book World, Jonathan Yardley returned to McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and discussed the ways his reactions have changed since he first encountered the novel in college — since the loss of his adolescent fervor. It’s a smart review, but I’m not equipped to respond.

I’m McCullers illiterate. The Welty-McCullers feud is the stuff of legend in the English departments of southern state schools. And having been sold on Welty’s “Powerhouse” and “Why I Live at the P.O.” at 18 by Harry Crews, I’ve declined, out of deference to what I thought was Welty’s critical response to her rival’s work, to read McCullers’ books. But a friend dragged me to the bookstore earlier this evening and now I, along with Oprah Winfrey’s viewers, am going to read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter for the first time. If you’re curious about McCullers, here she is, reading from her own work.


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