Who is Carson McCullers?
If you’ve never heard the name before, you’re not alone. Although not a household name like Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner, Carson McCullers is considered one of the major writers of 20th-century Southern fiction.
And she’s a big deal in Columbus. Along with Ma Rainey, Coca-Cola, steamboats and textile mills, she’s one of the city’s claims to fame.
McCullers — née Lula Carson Smith — was born Feb. 19, 1917, in the modern and booming city of Columbus. Although she first hoped to be a concert pianist, McCullers graduated from Columbus High School with the dream of becoming a professional writer. That dream became a reality with the publication and popularity of her first novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, written when she was 23.
McCullers authored several novels, plays and poems during her relatively short life — she died from a stroke at age 50. Although she spent much of her adult life in New York, the author returned to her childhood home for her wedding with James Reeves McCullers and later for periods of rest and writing in the Southern ambiance that formed the setting of her most successful novels.
Columbus State University preserves her memory with the Smith-McCullers House Museum. Located in a quiet historic district, the craftsman-style house where McCullers lived as a child is open for tours by appointment. The tours are free. The house is a good place to visit, even if you’re not familiar with McCullers’ work. You can see period furniture, books written by McCullers and a few of her pictures and portraits.
Strolling through the different rooms, which include a parlor, small kitchen, dining room, meeting room and living room, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about this little known but significant author.
“It is a place for one to come and learn about McCullers and her work,” said Cathy Fussell, director of CSU’s Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians.
“The house and its related programming are there to honor the life and great work of Carson McCullers,” Fussell said. “My interest in McCullers combines both my literary interests and my interest in regional history. She is without a doubt one of the great writers of the 20th century.”
CSU honors her legacy with literary programs regularly held at the center. The next one, part of a faculty-student reading series, is April 14 and feature the creative work of Patrick Jackson and Michael Cleveland. Programs are free and open to the public.
So for a step into the past and an encounter with an interesting Southern writer, schedule an appointment to stop by the museum by calling 706-545-4021 or sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The house is located at 1519 Stark Ave. For more information, visit www.mccullerscenter.org.
To keep up with what’s going on at the center, check out the blog at www.carsonmccullerscenter.blogspot.com.