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Clock Without Hands

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  2,094 ratings  ·  198 reviews
Set in Georgia on the eve of court-ordered integration, Clock Without Hands contains McCullers's most poignant statement on race, class, and justice. A small-town druggist dying of leukemia calls himself and his community to account in this tale of change and changelessness, of death and the death-in-life that is hate. It is a tale, as McCullers herself wrote, of "response ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 15th 1998 by Mariner Books (first published 1961)
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  2,094 ratings  ·  198 reviews

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Published in 1961, this story is set in a small town in southern USA. The overt story concerns race, justice and to some extent mortality, though there are plenty of other threads. However, it's the examination of the protagonists' views on race that are most interesting and, to some extent troubling, especially to the modern reader as the N word and variants are used quite often, albeit as a noun/statement, rather than necessarily as an insult.

It plays with one's sympathies very effectively. F
Steven Godin
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McCullers writes about about small town America with such authenticity and really captures people of a certain time and place that is hard to surpass, this is no exception. Through racial prejudice, family secrets and redemption, the lives of four men bound by histories are interwoven to create a tender, poignant and sometimes humorous read. As the last of her novels it's arguably the best written and this is quite something considering she suffered two severe strokes along with other health pro ...more
Diane Barnes
Nov 04, 2017 rated it liked it
I believe I have rated McCullers' first 3 novels with 5 stars, but, unfortunately I can't get there with this one. It seemed disjointed and unrealistic, and I disliked each of the four main characters equally. They seemed more like caricatures than real people.

THE JUDGE: A gluttonous, bigoted man who lied to himself as to his worth, and at age 85, has come up with a plan for the federal government to make reparations to the South for the financial ruin brought about when slaves were freed.

Clock Without Hands: Carson McCullers' Southern Requiem

Clock Without Hands by Carson McCullers was chosen by members of On the Southern Literary Trail for November, 2017.

McCullers' final novel was published in 1961. It had been long anticipated. However, reviews were more kind than favorable. The praise lauded on the Wunderkind author of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter in 1942 did not appear.

But for the admirer of the works of McCullers, Clock Without Hands remains a vital read exploring a fierce a
While I was reading this, I kept thinking of Beckett's Malone Dies (Malone Meurt), written in 1951, ten years before this book. The main character here is also called Malone and he dies slowly while the rest of the story, some of which is a little absurd, happens around him. But dying itself is kind of absurd when you think about it. In any case, I was able to relate to Malone and his peripheral and long-drawn out dying because Malone, in spite of his condition, has memorable moments: dying had ...more
Iona  Stewart
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
At first, I thought the book was just about a pharmacist, Malone, dying of leukemia. He didn’t really understand or accept the diagnosis and kept consulting new doctors only to receive the same verdict.

Though the book is indeed about Malone and his situation, it also has an even deeper theme.

Carson lived in the Southern USA in the first half of the 20th Century and she was very aware of the disparity in the treatment and situation of blacks and whites and the injustice of this.

One of the main ch
Mar 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: McCullers Fans
Carson McCullers never fails to impress me. In this grim novel of the Southern Gothic tradition, she examines the growing race tensions at the cusp of the civil rights movement, inter-generational gaps and relations, and most importantly the theme of life vs. death. Sheer genius from the first line: "Death is always the same, but each man dies in his own way."

Another aspect of McCullers' writing that I admire is her flawless shifting of points of view between characters. Despite how flawed the
Oct 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
If not more beautiful than The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, as good and even more brave. Gay miscegenation in the south, in the 40s? No wonder it took 10 years to be published. I'm surprised there wasn't more controversy.
Doug H
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Still mulling. Review to follow.
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Small Southern town, 1950's, short story of 4 men: The old judge clinging to the past, his orphaned and confused grandson Jester, a flamboyant black servant Sherman, and the town pharmacist Malone who just found out his diagnosis of fatal leukemia has left him "a clock with no hands" or in other words a man who's counting down to the certain but unknown time of his death. Not my favorite
Mc Cullers but worthwhile reading that takes on a lot of tough subjects, especially for that period, racial i
Jun 21, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Somewhere between 3 - 3.5

Even though this is only my second McCullers book I already consider myself a fan; I just love her style of writing and the compassion she has for her characters. Having loved The Ballad of the Sad Café, I was more lukewarm about Clock Without Hands although I can't quite pinpoint why.

Published some 15 years after her preceding novel (The Member of the Wedding), the story is set in a small town in a southern state and follows four main characters: an 85 year old former
Diane S ☔
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Thoughts soon.
Dec 02, 2017 rated it liked it
I see the "clock without hands" metaphor raging through, and see various characters and situations in allegorical terms and the symbolism present, but, to me, the whole novel just wasn't as solid as some of her other works. I thought it was a bit too overdone in many ways (the Judge stands out as an example). It seems at various points that McCullers is trying to underscore a particular theme of human struggle, but the methods by which she attempts to do this don’t work as well as many of her o ...more
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I truly think after reading this, its confirmation that she's definitely one of the greatest prose writers I've ever read. This work is slightly more abrupt, terse, and tense than the gentler "The Member of the Wedding" and "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter". The interesting thing about this novel are that the main characters: A dying pharmacist, an aging judge, his grandson, and a racially mixed companion are all male. Usually, Ms. McCullers puts a female character that balances out all the masculi ...more
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has made me incredibly sad. Sad over how our world was and how it still is. A heaviness has come over me.
Paul Bryant
Jun 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
I’m sorry to report that this novel is pretty much a complete disaster. It’s a study of four characters located in Milan, Georgia, at the point in the early 1950s when the civil rights movement was beginning to make itself felt in the American South. We have JT Malone, a pharmacist; Judge Clane, an 85 year old ex-congressman; Jester Clane, his 17 year old orphaned grandson; and Sherman Pew, an 18 year old black guy with blue eyes.
The whole thing is painful. I’m sure there is a great novel out
May 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-america
After putting down Carson McCullers’s “Clock Without Hands”, I gave a lot of thought as to what it was she wanted to say here. Set in small town Georgia in the mid 1950’s, The novel opens with a wholly unremarkable pharmacist who discovers he is dying of leukemia. It is in many ways the preamble for a book about death. Physical death and its specter abound to be sure but metaphoric death as well. With integration beginning to take hold and Black men and women beginning to assert their claims fo ...more
Rob Keenan
Sep 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If there was some sort of strange apocalyptic scenario where it was dictated that I could only read one genre of book for the rest of my life that genre would be Southern Gothic.

Milan, Georgia is the setting for a tale of hopeless ambitions, resentment and loneliness. Here, four men struggle to achieve their aspirations while wrestling with their social positions in Jim Crow's post-war South.

I've been thirsting for some Cormo Mac lately but I've only Suttree left to read before I've done every
Sep 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Set in a small, Southern town on the eve of the Court's decision in Brown v. Board, Clock Without Hands explores the lives of several of the town's residents as they deal with the changing racial climate of the civil rights era. A story of fear, intolerance, and violence, the novel features a rich and interesting cast of characters that quickly draws you in and a terrible building tension that keeps the pages turning. One of my favorite characters that I've read in a long time is Judge Clane, a ...more
Jan 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
A thoughtful meditation on dying written as the author, Carson McCullers, was dying. Ravaged by strokes and illness, she starts off this novel with the character J.T. Malone, the pharmacist, finding out he will probably die within the year. From this spring board, McCullers weaves a tale that once again explores the themes of loneliness, isolation, and the search for identity and love. Even the opening line of this book ("Death is always the same, but each man dies in his own way") presents the ...more
May 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Set in a Southern town in the United States in the late 1950s. In her final novel, Carson McCullers directly addresses racism, white supremacy and the whole anti-federal govt and states rights thing. In truth, she had been addressing all of this all along, but never so directly.
A man learns he has leukemia and only 15 months to live. A clock without hands is his image for how that feels. McCullers was ill and near death herself when she wrote the book. She knew of what she wrote.
I have now read
Apr 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
It's not about liking the characters, it's about being on intimate terms with them.
Jay Moran
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
All Sherman's life he had thought that all white men were crazy, and the more prominent their positions the more lunatic were their words and behaviour. In this matter, Sherman considered he had the sober ice-cold truth on his side. The politicians, from governors to congressmen, down to sheriffs and wardens, were alike in their bigotry and violence. Sherman brooded over every lynching, bombing or indignity that his race had suffered. In this Sherman had the vulnerability and sensitivity of an a ...more
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews, 1960s
A novel of despair and wasted lives...albeit with some mild hopes of redemption. Though Carson McCullers writes as well as ever, Clock Without Hands is a little loose at the seams compared to some of her earlier work. A small-town pharmacist is given a diagnosis of leukaemia which, not surprisingly, makes him reconsider his life and what remains of it. He discovers that “he was split between love and hatred – but what he loved and what he hated was unclear.” Yet despite reading Kierkegaard (as s ...more
Deborah Sheldon
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This mild and lyrically-written story broaches some hardcore topics including identity, racism, homophobia, and death in all its ugly guises. Masterful stuff. Carson McCullers lulls you into thinking you're reading a gentle tale, while repeatedly hitting you over the head. And, believe it or not, you don't see the blows coming.
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Carson McCullers' last book she wrote. I thought it was better than the one I just read, but still not as good as Lonely Hunter. I believe I've read all of her fiction now. Maybe missing some short stories and essays.

If you care to read this book keep in mind it's reads a little slow I think. The subject matter in this book is heavy. Maybe some of her heaviest yet. It goes into racism, depression, and rape. I was kind of shocked to see her throw in the word "fuck" a few times at the end. This al
A bigot, a half-breed, a cancer patient, and a twink walk into a bar. The bartender says "What'll it be fellas?" Stop me if you've heard this one before...

Okay, so this was my first Carson McCullers, and I'm sensing this might not be her best work. She does okay with building the characters, but the plot, such as it is, seems muddled. The same material in Faulkner's hands could have been great, but this book doesn't deliver much.

Will have to try something else by McCullers
Paula DeBoard
Carson McCullers' The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is one of my favorite books of all time. There, I said it.

Clock Without Hands has the same distinctive voice, the Jim Crow pre-Civil Rights setting, and a cast of characters who range from slightly to very unlikeable. It reminded me a bit in parts of "Everything Rises Must Converge" by Flannery O'Connor: the contrast between an old generation clinging to its prejudices and a new generation trying to find its way without a moral core.
May 22, 2019 rated it did not like it
Race in the civil rights era may be a good topic, but this isn’t a good novel.
Aug 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Carson McCullers is another of those authors I’ve been aware of for many years, but had never got around to reading. So when I saw Clock Without Hands in the half-price sale at Blackwell’s Charing Cross, I knew I had to have it. First published in 1961, Clock Without Hands was McCullers’s final novel prior to her death in 1967 (aged 50 years). She is widely recognised as one of the great American writers of her time, and Gore Vidal described her writing as ‘one of the few satisfying achievements ...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,

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