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The Ballad of the Sad Café and Other Stories

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  7,697 Ratings  ·  453 Reviews
A classic work that has charmed generations of readers, this collection assembles Carson McCullers’s best stories, including her beloved novella “The Ballad of the Sad Café.” A haunting tale of a human triangle that culminates in an astonishing brawl, the novella introduces readers to Miss Amelia, a formidable southern woman whose café serves as the town’s gathering place. ...more
Paperback, First Mariner Books edition, 152 pages
Published April 5th 2005 by Mariner Books (Houghton Mifflin Company) (first published 1951)
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Help by Kathryn StockettThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainFried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Best Southern Literature
67th out of 894 books — 2,260 voters
Animal Farm by George OrwellOf Mice and Men by John SteinbeckThe Old Man and the Sea by Ernest HemingwayThe Metamorphosis by Franz KafkaThe Stranger by Albert Camus
World's Greatest Novellas
38th out of 444 books — 1,105 voters

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Community Reviews

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Nov 12, 2015 Dolors rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of words, music and whisky
“The Ballad of the Sad Café”, title of the story that gives name to this collection, includes seven short, in some cases, almost minimalistic tales. Each one of them enhances a different aspect of thematic lines recurrent in McCullers’ works: the isolation and the loneliness juxtaposed to selfless love in implausible triangular relationships.
What distinguishes these stories from others is the musical quality so idiosyncratic of McCullers’ voice along with the silent incursion of her evenly pace

McCullers is one I come to for a reckoning, much as I do with Faulkner and O'Connor. One may bundle them up and slot them neatly under the label of Southern Gothic, but that is not a guaranteed invocation of cathedrals crazed by fecundity of both soil and symptom, an American way of the crooked cross where faith is a matter of lust and amputation. While Faulkner plunges in chiaroscuro and O'Connor sears in holy fire, McCullers sings in the twilight of a human soul, casting back on its years
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Feb 02, 2015 Paquita Maria Sanchez rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
You know those authors; just when you think you've begun to catch your footing running up the landslide that is all the books and authors you want to read, someone trips you up by mentioning, I don't know, "Carson McCullers," and suddenly you're all shaky-clenched fists and "durmurt, foiled again!" Well, (not Johnny) Carson (not Daily) McCullers, I know a bit about you now, and I think I could love you.

*We have lost soul losers who keep on losing.
*Not everyone is completely hollowed out by cycl
Aug 04, 2015 Teresa rated it really liked it
The title novella's Miss Amelia, with her way of dressing and behaving, had me wondering at first if she might be a grown-up Frankie (from The Member of the Wedding), though perhaps Miss Amelia hasn't grown up, at least not in the conventional sense; and unconventional is certainly the word for the story's love triangle. The omniscient narrator's (balladeer's?) riffs on the lover and the beloved had me thinking of Proust, though the straightforward prose couldn't be more different from his.

The m
I've noticed many folks who read and review literature on this site will namedrop other authors in a sort of Iron Chef flowery manner of description, knowing that other literary folk will instantly understand what is meant when saying 'this prose invokes a similar sense of spring as Lord Bigbeard With Tiny Spectacles, and a harmonious interplay of flavors identical to Oppressed In Her Time Strong Woman Author' (I swear every episode of Iron Chef used the spring and harmony phrases, it was like " ...more
Jul 29, 2013 Algernon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013

The town itself is dreary; not much is there except the cotton mill, the two-room houses where workers live, a few peach trees, a church with two colored windows, and a miserable main street only a hundred yards long. On Saturdays the tenants from the near-by farms come in for a day of talk and trade. Otherwise the town is lonesome, sad, and like a place that is far off and estranged from all the other places in the world.

I picked the book mostly based on the title. Mccullers seems to have a k
Mar 07, 2014 Melanie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
There is a dark, syrupy sway to Carson's work that I've always been a sucker for. The Ballad of the Sad Café is faultless.
I devoured it.

She employs her signature style study on heartbreak, cruelty & loneliness, as seen with The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

Set in a town that is 'lonesome, sad, and like a place that is far off and estranged from all other places in the world', with a striking central character Miss Amelia, whose violent & abrupt marriage inspires her to adopt years of solit
This is an excellent collection, with the titled novella being my favorite and having some truly wonderful prose throughout. It struck me as a southern tall tale crossed with that terrible "love gone wrong" plus Southern Gothic. So many parts equal a glorious whole for the reader if not for Miss Amelia.The descriptions of the café and the changes wrought on the town and its inhabitants are exciting to read, so full of life.

But the pride that the café brought to this town had an
effect on almost
Jul 15, 2008 Cecily rated it it was amazing
Poignant short story of repressed feelings, mystery and missed opportunity in a small impoverished southern community, concerning Miss Amelia, cousin Lymon the hunchback, and Marvin Macy.

It also contains several even shorter stories in the book, several with an overtly musical theme - like the title of this volume, much of her other work and indeed her life. In particular, Wunderkind probably echoes her thwarted plans to study at the Juliard (she lost the fees on the subway, so took a creative
Mar 03, 2014 Connie rated it really liked it
Note: Spoilers Ahead

The novella "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" is a Southern Gothic work with eccentric, lonely characters in a rundown Georgia town. Miss Amelia Evans is a six foot two inch rugged woman. She's the owner of a general store, and does a bit of healing with herbs on the side to help the townspeople. They gossip about her ten day marriage to Marvin Macy which ended after she refused his sexual advances. Marvin left town for a life of crime, and landed in the penitentiary.

A hunchback d
Diane S ☔
Jul 13, 2014 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
Loved this story. Can see it a an Appalachian country ballad set to music. The St Wunderkind was very good too,. She is such an authentic writer, very attuned to time and place.
Meghan Krogh
Jul 01, 2016 Meghan Krogh rated it liked it
Shelves: xx
Technically, perfect. Emotionally, I never finish a Carson McCullers without feeling really down.
I will write reviews as I complete each story.
Seven stories and seven different narrators:
David Ledoux, Joe Barrett, Therese Plummer, Kevin Pariseau, Suzanne Toren, Edoardo Ballerini, Barbara Rosenblat
I have asked Audible to tell me which narrator narrated which story. Have yet to receive a reply.
The Ballad of the Sad Café :
3 stars
What I liked was the feel of the town. It was an entity in itself. The townspeople are not individuals, but a group. Oft
Oct 03, 2014 Shaun rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
Carson McCullers was obviously a talented writer, and while I didn't love "The Ballad of Sad Cafe" with a capital "L"(personal preference kind of thing), I did enjoy the other short stories included.

Recommend this to those who appreciate the "literary" genre. I haven't read a lot of Eudora Welty's work, but "The Ballad of Sad Cafe" reminded me of the one novella I did read by Welty, The Robber Bridegroom, in terms of story telling and overall quality of writing.
I liked the eponymous novella and “A Domestic Dilemma”, other stories not so much, 3 stars is the overall rating for the collection.
May 16, 2012 Mosca rated it it was amazing

Although I live today in the rural Southwestern US, I was born and bred in the american South. I left in 1975 at the age of 25. There was/is much to become alienated with about the South; the racism, the right-wing idealogies, the chauvanism, the narrow-minded parochialism. But there is much to love also: The vast and complex flora--springtime lasts five months; and each week there seem to be at least four different varieties of flowers in bloom! The lay of the
May 22, 2016 Steven rated it it was amazing
Although the other short stories in this collection were really good it's Carson McCullers ability to write about the sad and lonely nature of small town life that really showcases her talent, and in 'The Ballad of the Sad Cafe' she has beautifully crafted a simple and somewhat bewildering little tale that involves three main parties, the lady owner of a small store(which would later become a cafe), a strange hunchback who she takes to her heart, and her ex con husband who is back in town and ...more
Aug 26, 2008 Christina rated it it was amazing
“The Ballad of the Sad Café” has an intensity which I can only liken to a Tennessee Williams play. Fantastic. McCullers mixes odd, complex characters together (like a wandering hunchback, the wealthiest woman of a small town, and the bad apple who is her ex-husband) and manages to make their stories believable. As satisfying as a large novel.

Interesting to note in “Wunderkind” another young woman with an almost painful yearning to play and be one with classical music, similar to Mick Kelly in Th
May 22, 2016 Jana rated it it was amazing
Lovely, touching words. All stories deal with loss, loneliness and time, and yet they are all completely different. The use of music in plot and musical language in metaphors are particularly fantastic. Gosh.
Oct 24, 2012 Lou rated it it was amazing
This is a tale of a cafe that became a hot spot of socializing and good times.
The cafe's rise and fall, how it's owner found a wandering hunchback and warmed to him strangely took him in and loved him for all his peculiarity.
One antagonist a criminal, a jailed man has a history with this area and people and is soon to return and wreck havoc.
This was a memorable story with characters that spring to life in the tale, outrageous and you cant help feeling sad for one character and the cafés demise.
May 15, 2016 Maria rated it really liked it
I bought this book somewhere in Frankfurt while attending the famous Frankfurter Buchmesse (which was quite an extraordinary experience, by the way). There was a 5 books 5 euro deal going on and The Ballad of the Sad Café and Other Stories was my fifth. I knew nothing about its author or its content, but the title seemed to call out for me.
There, for a few hours at least, the deep bitter knowing that you are not worth much in this world could be laid low.

The Ballad of the Sad Café was, without a
Mar 02, 2016 Ctgt rated it really liked it
This title popped up as one of my group reads but having read none McCullers' work I wasn't sure if I should start with a collection of shorts or hold out for The Heart is a Lonely Hunter(which has been on my tbr for quite some time). I figured if nothing else, the group would help me compare this work to her other full length titles so I jumped in. Some really wonderful stories!

The title story, "Ballad" was the longest(short, novella or novelette, I'd love to hear someone explain the difference
Dec 06, 2011 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Ballad of the Sad Cafe is an odd little story, which partly explains why I like it. It's sad, and sharp, and full of imagery. It has a haunting effect that leaves you knowing that you may not ever understand what it means. But, it leaves you wondering. For me, that's enough to recognize it as beautifully literary.

What was clear to me in this story is the complexity of love and companionship, and just how inexplicable it can be. Carson McCullers captured the subtleties of town mentality and
Feb 19, 2016 Spark rated it really liked it
The first Story bout the cafe seemed first something interesting. SPOILER:

(But in the end I think all 3 main-Charakters are very ill and lack of love in all their own ways. I do not like any of the 3 main characters. And all the other stories are like Piece of short-cuts, like just writing out some random thoughts...) Juste give only 2 stars. in my current situation i can understand and give it a 4. It is fucking shit if you are not able to g i v e love...cause everybody is givin and lov
May 14, 2008 Andrew rated it it was amazing
Lush and tender. After reading the crappy sentences of "The Pillars of the Earth," sinking into McCullers's sentences was like easing into a hot bath: "In addition to the store she operated a still three miles back in the swamp, and ran out the best liquor in the country." Ahh. So I didn't mind so much the melodrama or the adolescent rhapsody in sentences like "Otherwise the town is lonesome, sad, and like a place that is far off and estranged from all other places in the world." Or the awful pa ...more
"Ma il cuore dei bambini è un organo delicato. E un inizio crudele nel mondo può torcerlo e deviarlo nelle forme più strane. Il cuore di un bambino offeso s'avvizzerà in modo tale da restare poi per sempre duro e bucherellato come un nocciolo di pesca. O altrimenti s'empirà di tristezza e si gonfierà tanto che sarà una pena portarselo dietro, facile a ferirsi e addolorarsi per le minime cose."

Estratto dal primo di questi sette racconti, quasi un romanzo breve. Ambientati nel profondo sud degli S
Sentimental Surrealist
May 13, 2015 Sentimental Surrealist rated it it was amazing
Aubrey invoked O'Connor and Faulkner in her review of this one, so I'll follow suit: if Faulkner's books are dense abstract paintings and O'Connor's are doom-laden sermons, McCullers' are an accumulation of subcutaneous sadness that all seeps out toward the end when McCullers leaves just the smallest puncture in the narrative. You don't even notice the way they build until the end, when it all comes out and you get emotionally wrecked. Powerful stuff. The title novella, which takes that approach ...more
Mar 08, 2016 Carole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful collection of short stories. My problem with short stories, though, remains: I'm just getting into it and it ends. Highly recommended.
Jul 08, 2010 Adeena rated it really liked it
A boy once asked me if I would rather be the lover or the beloved. I wanted this boy to be my boyfriend so I tried to trick him. I told him that most people preferred to be the beloved. I thought that if I could make him my boyfriend, I could buy some time to show him all the reasons to love me. It didn't work, but it was probably for the best. The boy was funny, but he was also uptight and he liked AC/DC a little too much.

Carson McCullers' collection reminded me of this conversation about the l
Jun 25, 2014 Mmars rated it it was amazing
Review and 5 star rating for Ballad only.

While reflecting on this novella by McCullers, a metaphor popped into my head. This story is like the mystery of Mona Lisa's smile. The narrator can only tell you what was observed in the first floor cafe of Miss Amelia's home. Amelia is a private person whose intimate life she never shares. For her entire life her second floor is off-limits to everyone but a stranger who claims to be a distant, non-blood cousin, who Miss Amelia decides to take in for unk
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • A Curtain of Green and Other Stories
  • Let the Dead Bury Their Dead
  • The Little Disturbances of Man
  • Pale Horse, Pale Rider
  • The Lonely Hunter: A Biography of Carson McCullers
  • In a German Pension: 13 Stories
  • The Grass Harp, Including A Tree of Night and Other Stories
  • The Stories of Breece D'J Pancake
  • Selected Stories
  • The Magic Barrel
  • My Sister's Hand in Mine: The Collected Works of Jane Bowles
  • Ladies and Gentlemen
  • Night Soul and Other Stories
  • After Rain
  • I Hate To See That Evening Sun Go Down: Collected Stories
  • Julia and the Bazooka and Other Stories
  • Poachers
  • A Childhood: The Biography of a Place
Carson McCullers was an American who wrote fiction, often described as Southern Gothic, that explores the spiritual isolation of misfits and outcasts of the South.

From 1935 to 1937 she divided her time, as her studies and health dictated, between Columbus and New York and in September 1937 she married an ex-soldier and aspiring writer, Reeves McCullers. They began their married life in Charlotte,
More about Carson McCullers...

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“First of all, love is a joint experience between two persons — but the fact that it is a joint experience does not mean that it is a similar experience to the two people involved. There are the lover and the beloved, but these two come from different countries. Often the beloved is only a stimulus for all the stored-up love which had lain quiet within the lover for a long time hitherto. And somehow every lover knows this. He feels in his soul that his love is a solitary thing. He comes to know a new, strange loneliness and it is this knowledge which makes him suffer. So there is only one thing for the lover to do. He must house his love within himself as best he can; he must create for himself a whole new inward world — a world intense and strange, complete in himself. Let it be added here that this lover about whom we speak need not necessarily be a young man saving for a wedding ring — this lover can be man, woman, child, or indeed any human creature on this earth.

Now, the beloved can also be of any description. The most outlandish people can be the stimulus for love. A man may be a doddering great-grandfather and still love only a strange girl he saw in the streets of Cheehaw one afternoon two decades past. The preacher may love a fallen woman. The beloved may be treacherous, greasy-headed, and given to evil habits. Yes, and the lover may see this as clearly as anyone else — but that does not affect the evolution of his love one whit. A most mediocre person can be the object of a love which is wild, extravagant, and beautiful as the poison lilies of the swamp. A good man may be the stimulus for a love both violent and debased, or a jabbering madman may bring about in the soul of someone a tender and simple idyll. Therefore, the value and quality of any love is determined solely by the lover himself.

It is for this reason that most of us would rather love than be loved. Almost everyone wants to be the lover. And the curt truth is that, in a deep secret way, the state of being beloved is intolerable to many. The beloved fears and hates the lover, and with the best of reasons. For the lover is forever trying to strip bare his beloved. The lover craves any possible relation with the beloved, even if this experience can cause him only pain.”
“But the hearts of small children are delicate organs. A cruel beginning in this world can twist them into curious shapes. The heart of a hurt child can shrink so that forever afterward it is hard and pitted as the seed of a peach. Or again, the heart of such a child may fester and swell until it is a misery to carry within the body, easily chafed and hurt by the most ordinary things.” 125 likes
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