Book of da Week: The Ballad of the Sad Café

Carson McCullers The Ballad of the Sad Cafe
Carson McCullers’ The Ballad of the Sad Cafe.

Carson McCullers’ gloriously quirky the Ballad of the Sad Cafe is our book of da week! The American writer was, usually, heavily into Southern Gothic (NB: Not Southern Fried Chicken Gothic). Published in 1951 (a year before 1952), this one really puts the “quirk” in quirky. We mean, seriously, Franz Kafka’s usually hailed as the King Of Oddball, but McCullers is right up there (if not higher still).

It centres on a wee town in America, with cafe owner Miss Amelia Evans (whom we always picture to resemble Miranda from the TV series), a strong-willed woman of considerable height. A hunchbacked dude approaches her claiming to be her cousin, and the usually aloof Amelia takes him in and they strike up an odd friendship. Cousin Lymon is his name, and his primary skill is being able to wiggle his ears (we picture him as this diminutive, weird bloke named Gareth we once worked with in 2011) which we’ve always found to be a disturbing ability. Not endearing. Ho, no!

Stalking around town is hot stuff Marvin Macy (Brad Pitt), a horrible man who nonetheless is adored by women due to his mighty man muscles. Amelia Evans dismisses his lusting and, as she is inaccessible, Macy becomes infatuated with her. These three create one of the most bizarre relationship triangles in literary history (and we include Where’s Wally? in there). It also makes for a uniquely poignant read. Get it read!

Unfortunately McCullers struggled with ill health for much of her life, and died in 1967 aged just 50. Despite this, she’d been a pretty prolific writer and is still held in high regard today. Several films have been adapted from her books, and The Ballad of the Sad Cafe is a perfect starting point for an intriguing writer. Groovy.

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