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Reflections in a Golden Eye (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 29 Mar 2001

4.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (29 Mar. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141184450
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141184456
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 0.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 193,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"The greatest prose writer that the South produced" -- Tennessee Williams "Again [McCullers] shows a sort of subterranean and ageless instinct for probing the hidden in men's hearts and minds."The New York Herald-Tribune"The novel is a masterpiece . . . as mature and finished as Henry James's THE TURN OF THE SCREW." Time Magazine

About the Author

Carson McCullers was born at Columbus, Georgia, in 1917. She published The Heart is a Lonely Hunter at the age of twenty-three. Her other works include Reflections in a Golden Eye (1941), The Member of the Wedding (1946), The Ballad of the Sad Café (1951), The Square Root of Wonderful (1958), a play, Clock Without Hands (1961), Sweet as a Pickle, Clean as a Pig (1964) and The Mortgaged Heart (published posthumously in 1972). She died in 1967.


Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A barracks in peace-time is the setting. I would guess (no time period specified) this is set in the 1900s, before the First World War. But because this is an American town and I am reporting on the book, not the film (which bombed at the box office) I can’t be more specific.

The main characters are Captain Penderton and his wife Leonora, and her lover Major Morris Langdon who is married to Alison. It’s an overheated tale as Penderton becomes obsessed with an enlisted man, Private Ellgee Williams and the undertones of homosexuality are emphasised by Williams’ provoking habit of riding the horses while he is naked. This is a short book 125 pp., but it is remarkable for the beauty of the writing. McCullers leaves many things unspoken, but the atmosphere is sultry. Meanwhile Ellgee enters the house of Captain Penderton and watches Leonora sleeping. This act of voyeurism has implications, but they are not acted upon.

There is a culminating scene in which Ellgee is caught and the final violence is perpetrated. There are echoes in this book of The Member of the Wedding, her first and most loved book, when a young girl imagines that she will form part of the wedding service and even go away with the young couple. In this book, however, it is young Ellgee, who has been fed all sorts of ugly nonsense about the corrupt nature of women, whose passionate nature is tradduced.

This is sensuality and violence in this novel, but at heart it is sad, if not mordant. In some ways it lacks agency, because of the lack of fulfilment in the emptiness of these rich lives that remain unfulfilled.
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This is a sensual and mythical novel written by a writer at her zenith, the themes are subtly woven like a golden thread throughout. There are so many gilded images, but they are done so as not to distract. Reading this was uncomfortable at times as the characters are painfully exposed to their reality as well as each other and McCullers writes with such frankness, even though her voice as a writers is always warm and poetic, she really tells it like it is!

I believe McCullers was attempting alchemy with this work (and succeeded), the grotesque characters glittered with promise and fascinated me so that I kept reading, and this is all because of McCullers' handling of them, as they really are unpleasant characters. Yet, I found the characters beguiling and vivid. They are hard and cold like gods turned into metal statues, and they are all trapped. Yet they can see the reflection of something they bury in themselves in the behaviours of others.

McCuller's Midas' touch extends to readers too because we are also distracted by these reflections of capacities that we have ourselves. But like in the myth of Midas one has to wonder where the characters and us as readers will get our nourishment with all the famous 'golden' descriptions of golden food and drink in this book, McCullers was aware what kind of literary feast she is offering us in a golden imitation of life. Reading can be a charmed state that offers a dangerous nostalgia for lives we never lived. There is also this dangerous nostalgia in obsessing over missed or denied opportunities as the characters do in this book. Attempts to recapture or understand joy is fool's gold, it distracts us from the real golden moment.
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Format: Paperback
Carson McCullers’ novella (written in 1941) has that strangely rare effect of seeming to amount to far more than the sum of its parts. That this most original of authors is able (in a little over one hundred pages) to conjure up this enthralling, dream-like world of repressed (hetero- and homo-) sexuality and longing, set in the formal, authoritarian surrounds of a Southern American army base is nothing less than a remarkable achievement. It’s the sort of read that is (for me, at least) deceptive in its encroaching power, profundity and sense of tragedy, reminding me in this respect of (oddly enough) The Great Gatsby – one of my all-time favourite novels – and, whilst not quite on a par with Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, McCuller’s simple, but hypnotic, writing style is a joy to behold. It is also the author’s ability to conjure up so effectively and compellingly her 'imaginary world’ that sets the novel way above the much less successful cinematic adaptation starring Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando.
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Format: Paperback
If this is the same territory as existentialism, which was emerging in Occupied Paris as she was writing, Carson McCullers's second novel has much in common with Stefan Zweig's Beware of Pity and Joseph Roth's The Radetzky March, those agonised tales of psychological malaise and decay in pre-WW1 Austria. Like those tales, her setting is a provincial military base in peacetime which, through numbing routine and a lack of stimulus, generates a hot-house atmosphere for those stationed there. And despite a surface cheerfulness, her characters are deeply unhappy people: despite the constant talk, there is almost no communication between them.

Carson McCullers works with six characters, none especially perceptive or intelligent people, all of whom feel that life has let them down. And, when put together, these individuals relentlessly drive each other up the wall, deliberately playing on each other's nerves. We quickly learn there are unspoken tragedies behind it all: like the death of an infant child which they don't speak about. Unconfronted grief scars this tale.

Tennessee Williams praised this 1941 book highly as the work of a great artist. It is an assessment I agree with. Williams even felt this astonishingly accomplished work was a core text in forming the Southern Gothic (it sits alongside William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor) because the book revolves around that intuition, that sense of "an underlying dreadfulness in modern experience." Then add to the psychological depth of the book, the quality of the prose.
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