Books: The Shy & the Lonely

THE BALLAD OF THE SAD CAFE (791 pp.) —Carson McCullers—Houghton Mifilin ($5).

Carson McCullers published her first novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, at 23, and it was an immediate success. Novelist McCullers herself made good copy. She was a round-faced Georgia girl with bangs, who worked at her writing between 4 and 8 a.m., before going off to a daytime clerical job (she had lost one job when caught reading Proust). On top of that, the critics decided that her book, a somber, wide-eyed look at small-town Southern life, was really first-rate.

Carson McCullers was no flash in the pan. A...

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