Critics called the young writer a real find whose novel revealed a new tone, a true writer's sensibility.2
The New York Times
called it, "a remarkable book . . . [McCullers] writes with a sweep and certainty that are overwhelming." Richard Wright, in the New Republic
, said, "To me the most impressive aspect of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
is the astonishing humanity that enables a white writer, for the first time in Southern fiction, to handle Negro characters with as much ease and justice as those of her own race." And the Saturday Review of Literature
commented, "This is an extraordinary novel to have been written by a young woman; but the more important fact is that it is an extraordinary novel in its own right, considerations of authorship apart." In the Boston Evening Transcript
, May Sarton observed, "We have waited a long time for a new writer, and now one has appeared it is an occasion for hosannahs . . . It is hard to think that we shall have to wait a year or two before we can expect another book from this extraordinary young woman."
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
was translated into some fifteen languages, and in 1968 was made into a major motion picture starring Alan Arkin and Sondra Locke, both of whom were nominated for Oscars. The Modern Library named the book one of the top one hundred works of fiction of the twentieth century. Houghton Mifflin remained Carson McCullers's publisher throughout her career, during which she produced five novels, two plays, twenty short stories, two dozen nonfiction pieces, a book of children's verse, and a handful of distinguished poems.3
She worked with a select few editors over the years, but she enjoyed a unique kinship with Robert Linscott, who had been one of the first fans of her work. She met him in New York in the summer of 1941, and later she would visit him and his family in Boston. There is a long history of mutual admiration between Houghton and McCullers. In a letter to Ferris Greenslet, dated November 14, 1941, McCullers wrote, "Houghton Mifflin has treated me so handsomely, and believe me, I appreciate it . . . Later on, I wish H.M. would let or make Bob [Linscott] come down for a visit here. We have such good music." In 1941 Greenslet sponsored McCullers for a Guggenheim fellowship, which enabled her to travel to Europe in 1942. In a December 23, 1941, letter to McCullers, Linscott wrote, "All your friends in New York are so concerned for you. Really, Carson, you do float in a sea of love. I've never seen such devotion."
After her death in 1967, Houghton Mifflin published one last volume of previously uncollected writings, The Mortgaged Heart
, edited by Carson's sister Rita. Today, as always, Carson McCullers remains an integral part of Houghton's longstanding commitment to and legacy of discovering new writers and supporting and nurturing them throughout their careers.
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