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The Mortgaged Heart: Selected Writings

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  302 ratings  ·  22 reviews
An absorbing look at the early beginnings of one of America’s finest writers, The Mortgaged Heart is an important collection of Carson McCullers’s work, including stories, essays, articles, poems, and her writing on writing. These pieces, written mostly before McCullers was nineteen, provide invaluable insight into her life and her gifts and growth as a writer. The collect ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 5th 2005 by Mariner Books (first published November 30th 1970)
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4.04  · 
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 ·  302 ratings  ·  22 reviews

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The Mortgaged Heart

The dead demand a double vision. A furthered zone,
Ghostly decision of appointment. For the dead can claim
The lover's senses, the mortgaged heart.

Watch twice the orchard blossoms in grey rain
And to the cold rose skies bring twin surprise.
Endure each summons once, and once again;
Experience multiplied by two - the duty recognized.
Instruct the quivering spirit, instant nerve
To schizophrenic master serve,
Or like a homeless Doppelgänger
Blind love might wander.

The mortgage of the dea
This collection is collated and introduced by Carson's sister and is mostly short stories. However, it also includes articles, poems, brief notes about writing and a detailed outline of her most famous novel, "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" (

A few pieces are more relevant if you are familiar with her subject (THiaLH, Dostoyevsky, Isak Dinesen), but most are accessible to all and the short stories are a good introduction to her distinctive, lyrical style.
Aug 05, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, non-fiction
I enjoyed the short stories, but found the essays and poetry a bit heavy handed and difficult to read. For those who enjoyed The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and Member of the Wedding, I'd recommend the fiction portion of this collection.
Dec 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a big fan McCullers' writing so I looked forward to finishing this text to have better picture of her development as a writer. Each story is accompanied with a letter from the publisher giving some insight in the editorial comments McCullers' received.
Of her early stories I the following list stuck with me: "Court in the West Eighties," "Poldi" and "Instant of the Hour After."

I liked all the stories. "Art and Mr. Mahoney," is lightweight, and not to criticize, it also trivial. "Who Has See
Mandy Johnson
Aug 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really love McCullers. Hell, I wrote my thesis on her and Faulkner, but getting through the last bit of this book was a struggle. I just love her fiction more than her nonfiction.
Dec 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-story
One of America's finest writers
Feb 16, 2019 rated it liked it
I really enjoy fleshing out my understanding of a writer's style and body of work. I much preferred Carson McCullers' stories to her "other writings" which were kind of rambling essays, and much of them were actually pretty saccharine, Norman-Rockwell-type musings on the home-front during World War II and Christmastime in the South. (That's why I only gave it three stars.) It was also so strange and disorienting to read about a woman who is identified with the South writing about her time in Bro ...more
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
didn't like some of the essays but who cares.
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. Interesting to see the development of a writer from her early works as well as to read her essays on the writing process.
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four and one half stars ... this book is a rare collection of McCullers writings beginning with short stories written as a teenager. What insight she possessed at such a young age of the human condition! It’s rather startling given the set and setting. The book also contains essays (I wish to read more) and poetry. What talent!
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: stories, essays, wish-list
Carson McCullers would have turned 100 a week ago, and the 50th anniversary of her death is coming up in September.
Which means that I’ll never get the chance to send her a letter to thank her for all these wonderfully poignant and smart things she wrote. Sigh.
Angela Wade
Nov 03, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
While it is obvious Ms. McCullers was unbelievably talented, the fifties-style dialogue in the short stories tripped me up. I have the same problem when reading Stephen King - I know that was the way people spoke back then, but it sounds so unnatural to me as to be grating, and I can't seem to get past it.

The essays were a bit heavy-handed and over the top, but I fully understand this woman's importance to the literary world now.
Lynda Spadaccini
ahhh ms mccullers, one of the best writers I have ever read, just when think i am tired and can't read anymore, carson keeps me turning the page. The Mortgaged Heart is a collection of short stories essays and a few poems. the language is so simple, yet so effective, her essays on NewYork are amazing, not only do yu feel like you are there, it makes you want to go there and see it for yourself.
Oct 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: random-fiction
Two thumbs up for Carson. This book includes an outline of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Love reading the process behind her writings.
Jan 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good insight into some of McCullers' early work and also lesser known, her poetry. I love her poem, 'stone is not stone.'
I registered a book at!
Hannah (fullybookedreviews)
My classic for the month of February.

I am attempting to broaden my literary horizons somewhat.
Mona Watanabe
Aug 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
McCullers ❤
Mugren Ohaly
I don't like stories like these which describe a negligible event in such detail
Russell James
Nov 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Fine collection of her lesser-known pieces: journalism, essays, early stories, a few letters - though her poems disappoint. Good editorial contribution.
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I love her short stories and poems it is as simple as that. Her non-fiction essays are just as good if not better sometimes than her fiction.
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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,
“We wander, question. But the answer waits in each separate heart - the answer of our own identity and the way by which we can master loneliness and feel that at last we belong.” 65 likes
“Love is the bridge that leads from the I sense to the We, and there is a paradox about personal love. Love of another individual opens a new relation between the personality and the world. The lover responds in a new way to nature and may even write poetry. Love is affirmation; it motivates the yes responses and the sense of wider communication. Love casts out fear, and in the security of this togetherness we find contentment, courage. We no longer fear the age-old haunting questions: "Who am I?" "Why am I?" "Where am I going?" - and having cast out fear, we can be honest and charitable.” 46 likes
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