Duffy Pratt's Reviews > Reflections in a Golden Eye

Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers
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's review
Apr 30, 2010

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bookshelves: classic

Upon finishing this, I checked McCullers biography online to see whether she committed suicide. It turns out she didn't. Instead, she tried and failed, and somehow that is even more fitting.

I don't know if I've ever read anyone who has a both flatter and bleaker view of people. Her writing ranges from the very good to the spectacular. The people in her world are grotesques who would fit into other Southern Gothic writers books. They would be right at home in Flannery O'Connor or Faulker, for example. And her power of observation and insight borders on the uncanny. And yet, everything is so distant. She writes about her subjects as if she were an entomologist and they were just so many beetles that she could skewer with pins and affix to the page.

And then, in the midst of all this, there is one extraordinary scene of a near suicidal ride on a horse through a forest. The energy, the life, the fear and exhilaration that she captures in this scene shows that all that distance is knowing and deliberate. For some reason, she's holding something back, and the power she could deliver was extraordinary, if only that's what she had wanted to do so.

This book is her account of the events leading up to a real murder on a pre World War 2 army base. Compared with some other details -- most notably the desperate woman who tries to stab herself with garden shears but somehow manages to cut off both of her nipples instead -- the murder seems fairly ordinary and bland. It's almost as if the ordinary veneer of daily life was so horrible that McCullers needed to maintain this rigid distance just to bear through it all.

One of the more mystical aphorisms at the end of Wittgenstein's Tractatus is that "The world of the happy man is different from that of the unhappy man." Reading McCullers makes me think this is more true than I had imagined, and it makes me glad that I don't live in her world. Apparently, she felt the same (at least at times) but was unable to get out of it so easily. Very sad stuff.
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Reading Progress

April 30, 2010 – Shelved
May 22, 2012 – Started Reading
July 5, 2012 – Finished Reading
July 6, 2012 – Shelved as: classic

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