Mama's got the low down blues
Moma's going on a cruise"
Lou'siana Low Down Blues
I keep trying to figure out, some clever way to explain how I stumbled upon Carson McCullers, a mostly obscure southern female blues writer born into the world with a rapidly deteriorating body and a May Fly's life span, but with a fire raging inside her.
But there is no literary flourish to make a wanna be writer sound profound. The simple fact is, it's been less than three months since I've learned of her work and I can't recall how.
The only straw I can grasps at, is that she came through the doorway created long ago when an ex lover dragged me to New Orleans, kicking and screaming. I returned permanently altered. Yet I isolated New Orleans/Louisiana completely outside the south because I was uncomfortable feeling so at home in the south.
Of course this was immature. New Orleans/Louisiana exist in dual worlds, one physical, out of which the name "The Big Easy" arises. The other, is darker more ethereal with porous boarders between past, present, and future, sensed only by those with developed "antennae". The American South is are far more in New Orleans/ Louisiana's gravitational pull than the midwest, especially for Black people.
|Creole Gumbo on my kitchen table Note the authentic Cajun Gumbo Spoon made from an |
I cook and eat gumbo, chitlins, and greens, not just because of my connections to Nola, but because of my connections to the whole south including Mississippi. I can no longer ignore, the south's history, because like an insane mad scientist, it made me. For most of America's history, It kidnapped, in-slaved beat, chiseled, carved, raped, murdered, hung, burned, garroted, drowned, etc., the flesh of the African painfully reconstructing it into the Black race. And here I am.
|Mr. Rubin Stacy|
|Ms. Laura Nelson. wife and mother of two|
There is also no place in the south where the soil was not completely drench by the juice of the Strange Fruit who are my ancestors, which is the foundation of Southern Gothic.
The doorway that now connects me with Nola also connects me- as my ancestors did- with all parts and spirits of the south, good and bad. This is a haunting
I'm working my way through four of Carson McCuller's novels and just finished her biographical novel "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter".
Below is my from Goodreads review, which is the FaceBook for readers.
In this southern town, a deep and toxic main of desperation, regret, and terror, runs through it.
Most have succumbed under it’s putrid influence. But brief glimmers of innocents, hope, and, dreams, still exists, and though often mislaid, there is love.
A small band of social and cultural outcasts sense the darkness, but know not enough to identify it.
They're only three who can.
Jake Blount, a wandering itinerant worker, angry drunk, and communist sympathizer, trying to figure out the secret to getting the masses to rise up against oppression.
Antonapoulos, an obese mute, thought dimwitted, for years lived placidly and seemingly content, with his best friend John Singer. One day he rebels, going from kind and gentle, to brazen acts of petty thievery and minor public violence, that get him committed -by his uncle- to an insane asylum, in a far away town.
Dr. Benedict Mady Copeland, a Black doctor who allows (to borrow the term from Samuel Beckett) “the mess”, to pull his family apart. Years later he rebels by simple acts of personal dignity and humanity as a Black man, and professionalism as a doctor, to educate the Black community.
At the center of “the mess” connecting and fortifying these renegades, which includes, Mick Kelly, (who a character Carson McCullers based off herself), is John Singers. Singer is a gentle and deeply empathetic mute who keeps the door of his boarding house rental room, always open even when he leaves (in which case he leaves a note on the table) to visit Antonapoulos, who’s well being is connected with Singer’s ability to sustain the outcasts and himself.
McCullers, does what many white writers attempt, to give real and original voice to Black characters. While most fail miserably, she connects. In fact, her use of Black southern vernacular actually give their words more power, as opposed to sacrificing their dignity, which is the problem with Zorna Neal Hurston’s work, including “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and “Mules and Men”.
|Zora Neal Hurston|
|Charlotte Osgood Mason|
Mason also demanded to approve all work before it was published and made "corrections".
This caused Langston Hughes to leave the financial comfort Osgood provided and strike out on his own during, The Great Depression.
|Chole Ardelia Wofford aka "Toni Morrison"|
McCullers doesn’t stop there, treading further into the darkness, she takes the reader into Chole Ardelia Wofford aka Toni Morrison territory where few writers cross. I sensed the coming onslaught of literary cataclysmic violence that Wofford uses to painfully baptize the reader into her faith such as her
brilliant and classic tragi-comic novel, "The Bluest Eye" when Soaphead Church drives the sad and already traumatized, fragile child, Pecola Breedlove, insane
At twenty-three-years of age, McCullers, was far more clumsily than Wofford, which induces a far more painfully and raw shock in the novel, such that my first visceral response was anger at this dead white southern women. How dare she mutilate him that way!? Why did she do this!? What right did she have!? Indignantly I thought , she only got away with this racist bullshit because she wrote this novel in 1940.
And she's wasn't even finished with her trespass.
When I got over the shock of the brutality, I knew why, Carson McCullers “went there”. The same reason why "the caged bird sings" cause it has to. The problem is more people can’t and don’t want too. And the fact that she did so in the 1940's in North Carolina is simply amazing.
|Gospel singer Ethel Waters and Carson McCullers|
My favorite Bokowski poems is his ode to Carson McCullers below. Due note along with alcoholism she had numerous illnesses including various strokes starting in her early twenties. If any one deserved a good drink it was her.