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The Ballad of the Sad Café and Other Stories

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  10,669 ratings  ·  707 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 January 1st 1951)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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Dolors
Sep 13, 2015 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
...more
Michael
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, favorites
As a kind of grotesque fairytale void of a clear moral, The Ballad of the Sad Café isn’t easy to sum up. The novella centers on a love triangle between a wealthy brusque woman, her sleazy ex-husband of ten days recently released from prison, and her hunchbacked cousin who’s new to town. All the characters are coded as queer; most of the action takes place in the titular cloistered cafe, which the woman owns and operates; repressed feelings and bad communication abound. The tale ends with an expl ...more
Aubrey
4.5/5

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
...more
PattyMacDotComma
3.5★
“But the new pride that the café brought to this town had an effect on almost everyone, even the children. For in order to come to the café you did not have to buy the dinner, or a portion of liquor.”

McCullers tells a good story, but some are not quite enough story. I wanted a bit more! The title story is a novella, and I really enjoyed it. Generally, I'm quite happy with a short vignette, but these didn't always give me enough.

This was written in 1951, when a 6’2” (188cm) woman would have b
...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Aug 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature, usa
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
...more
Brina
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, novella, fiction
This year has primarily been a nonfiction year for me. I have participated in a group nonfiction reading challenge and as such fiction books do not get my team points. It has been half of a year since I picked up a novel and while I have enjoyed the nonfiction challenge and learned much from, something seems to be missing in my reading. I have decided to start small by reintegrating one or two fiction pieces a month back into my reading lineup, beginning with authors who I have previously read s ...more
Teresa
Aug 02, 2015 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
...more
Eh?Eh!
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
Paul Bryant
May 25, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
We have to discuss the plot here, so total spoilers are included here.

Forgive the blunt language here, but this seems to be a story about very confused gay people living in a teeny town in the back of beyond. Please note – every other novel is about confused straight people. There is no stigma in being confused. But these Sad Café types are really confused.

We begin with Amelia Evans, 6 feet 2 inches, powerfully built, likes to wear men’s clothing and smokes a pipe, doesn’t like men – I was gett
...more
Jessaka
Oct 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
A Fun, Quirky read

This was so unexpected since I had read. “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” by this same author,” and found it left me feeling hollow inside, causing me to not wish to read other books by her. This book was just quirky, and it left me wanting to read more.

The scene began in a small town in America. The town has almost died, and the café that was once ran by a six-foot two woman was closed down. Half the porch floor had been painted, as were the exterior walls adjoining it. This w
...more
Melanie
Feb 20, 2011 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 solitude. 'th
...more
Steven Godin
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 lo ...more
Chrissie
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.
***************************************
STORY 1
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
...more
L.A. Starks
Mar 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is a novella and several short stories. All are entertaining reading, focusing as they do on unusual characters and situations.

From a literary viewpoint, Ballad is the most interesting because rather than a single character confronting him/herself or two characters confronting one another, it features a genuine triangle. None of the three characters is particularly appealing but readers will still be sympathetic to the roundabout of unrequited love.

The remaining stories are interesting
...more
Diane S ☔
May 15, 2013 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.
Το Άθχημο Γατί Καρολίνα
The Ballad of the Sad Café is a story about a love triangle mixed with a strong dose of love and hatred, devotion and betrayal, loneliness and companionship. It's a drama that in the end makes you laugh and weep. All the events take place in a small southern provincial town.

Where raw realism encounters the absurd and the grotesque, comes a special combination, a gentle poetry of the miserable daily life, a tragedy so far-fetched that might seem comical, a transformation of real people into caric
...more
Cecily
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
...more
Elise (TheBookishActress)
freshman high school english: book three

I don't remember enough about this, but it is weird as fuck, and Carson McCullers is a gay icon. Imagine writing such fantastically obvious gay subtext in like, 1950.
Sue
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
...more
Lea
Apr 01, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
3.5

Beautiful stories focused on odd characters that represent individual uniqueness of our experience that leads to existential loneliness. Stories explore relationship of that
alienation and loneliness with alleviation of it in romantic love. Writing is atmospheric, nostalgic, melancholic.
Connie G
Mar 03, 2014 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
...more
Josh
May 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
(3.5) While reading McCullers, you feel an underlying sadness towards her characters. Whether it be their heartache and trying to find ways to cope with what life has given them or their random birth into a low class of society that has kept them in a state of ignorant bliss, you find that the characters speak to the reader, but not in an overwhelming way. That underlying sadness is sometimes so subtle that it doesn't quite make me feel as much as many others sad prose, hence why my rating isn't ...more
Lotte
The sensation of loneliness threads through Carson McCullers' short stories. It's fairly easy to associate McCullers' work with loneliness as it's literally in the title of her most famous novel, but I do think you're more than justified in doing so. The melancholia and longing entwined with loneliness permeate everything she writes about. Moments of alienation can be found in all of the stories in this collection — whether she writes about Miss Amelia, the enigmatic owner of the sad café, a hus ...more
Lee
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to Will for nudging this one up the TBR over the past couple of years, at least. Should've listened to him sooner. Remember when you last read something that reminded you why you got so excited about books in the first place?
Stefania
Beautiful, beautiful book. This was my second approach to McCullers's work, and I can say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I've become one of her admirers.

I'm the kind of reader that tends to put the characters and the human element above the story line and everything else, so I'm always amazed by authors who get it, and it's obvious that McCullers is one of them. She understands loneliness. She understands love. She understands pain. And that, the deep comprehension of people's feelings and b
...more
Shaun
Sep 03, 2014 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.
Amal Bedhyefi
Dec 18, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is set in a southern miserable and dreary town . To be honest , the southern way of life and the portraits of southerners in general really reminded me of Zora Neale Hurtson's style , especially in Their eyes were watching god .
I devoured this book in one sitting for I was so captivated by Miss Emelia's peculiar character.
However , the hunchback is the one who caught my attention more , it's like everyone and everything are under his spell and charmed by him .
Which is strange because e
...more
Diane Barnes
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
"Leo had run a night cafe for 14 years, and he held himself to be a critic of craziness." That line is from the last story in the book, "A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud". I wish I knew how an author can come up with a sentence that says so much in 19 words. That's my favorite sentence but by no means the only perfect one in this collection. And as for the title story, it's just brilliant and awesome. Miss Amelia will stay a part of my psyche for a long time.
Andy Weston
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Populated by three eccentric characters, McCullers's classic novella is to do with loneliness, and looking for love, and finding it in the most unlikely places. The setting is a dreary town, down on its luck, with boarded up houses and a boarded up cafe, that is still reeling from the after effects of a strange love triangle.
Its a splendidly told comic tragedy that ponders whether being in a unsatisfactory and often painful relationship is preferable to living alone..
Once you have lived with an
...more
sologdin
Set in a town “estranged from all other places in the world” (3), the novella is an extended analepsis that relies on a weird colloquial style of narration. Its protagonist, Miss Amelia, had no use for others except “to make money out of them,” and she had a “passion for lawsuits and the courts” (5). She keeps her expelled kidney stones in a box (35); she only liked to discuss “interminable subjects,” such as “the stars, the reason why Negroes are black, the best treatment for cancer” (36).

Afte
...more
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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

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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.”
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“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.” 175 likes
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