Seven: The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers

Seven: The Ballad of the Sad Café by Carson McCullers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a decent collection for McCullers. I had expected more along the lines of "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" and "The Member of the Wedding". The titular and first story in the collection is by far the best and, I think, it was turned into a movie. I liked the stories enough that they averaged out to a solid rating of four. I had just expected more darkness, gloom, and emotion.

1. The Ballad of the Sad Cafe - Fantastic! As expected McCullers didn't disappoint me. A summary is impossible as any attempt is sure to fall short. A dark southern gothic with a macabre cast of characters. A heavy air hangs over the whole story and the situation becomes gloomier and gloomier except for the brief period of lightness in the middle. Nobody finds happiness in the end but a brief bittersweet moment is glimpsed. A classic. (5/5)

2. Wunderkind - This didn't overly impress me. Of course, the writing was wonderful. I love McCullers' language. However, there really wasn't a story. We are inside the mind of a young girl, who is somewhat of a piano prodigy, as she waits to take her next lesson. She's lost, or never really found, the soul of music as she plays. It's a melancholy piece as expected but left me feeling a little "so what". (3/5)

3. The Jockey - This one went over my head and I don't intend the pun. Three men, a trainer, owner, and rich guy are having a meal in a restaurant. In walks the jockey, standing against the wall. Conversation turns to the jockey and eventually, he walks over to the table. Saying any more would basically be retelling the story. But it ends on a strange note leaving me confused. Not unpleasant to read but, point? (2/5)

4. Madame Zilensky and the King of Finland - Another just ok story. At least this ends in semi-tragedy. The story of a perpetual liar whose whole existence relies on these lies. Our narrator is the one to "out" her. (3/5)

5. The Sojourner - Now this is more like it! A world travelling journalist returns to Georgia for his father's funeral. On his way back to Paris he has a stop over in New York and arranges to meet up with his ex-wife and her family. It's been 8 years since he saw her and the visit brings to him the melancholy feelings of having wasted his life. (4/5)

6. A Domestic Dilemma - This is a dark story that I really enjoyed even though the ending left me wondering. The narrator is a family man who comes home one evening and ruminates on what his life has become. He has two young children and the wife he loved has become an alcoholic. He deals with the current situation and ponders upon what the future may hold if all continues as it is. (5/5)

7. A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud - Another story which I enjoyed and was what I expected from McCullers. A newspaper boy enters a diner for breakfast and as he leaves a man sunk in his beer calls him over to tell him that he loves him. This transient then goes on to explain his life and experience of love claiming he has now got it down to a science. This didn't go where I expected it to but instead was a sad story on what love is and what it isn't. (4/5)


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