Carson McCullers would have turned 100 this year and the Charlotte Center for Literary Arts is honoring the writer with a year-long series of events.
McCullers was born in Columbus, Ga., and spent some time after graduating high school in New York City. In 1937, at the age of 20, she married a former soldier and aspiring writer, Reeves McCullers, who went to Charlotte, N.C. hoping to be hired as a reporter by The Charlotte Observer. While that plan failed to materialize, he did find work in the city and soon moved his young wife out to join him.
It was here that McCullers began work on her most famous work, the novel “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.” She finished the work in Fayetteville, N.C. where her husband was transferred there in 1938.
She fell in love with women throughout her life, although it seems her love in this area, most notable of which was the fellow writer Annemarie Schwarzenbach, remained unrequited.
“In the absence of reciprocated lesbian love and the inability to consummate lesbian sex, McCullers still wore a lesbian persona in literature and in life. She clearly wrote against the grain of heterosexual convention, wore men’s clothes, was outrageously aggressive in her consistently failed search for sex and love with another woman, and formed primary friendships with other gay people,” writes Sarah Schulman in a piece for The Nation.
Those friends included Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams.
Though McCullers died in 1967 at age 50, her breakout novel “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” continues to make essential reading lists, a perennial favorite for its courageous and sensitive exploration of society’s most enduring social challenges — discrimination based on class, disability, gender, political ideology, race, religion and sexual orientation — issues that, 80 years later, continue to haunt and divide our city, state, and nation,” Charlotte Lit writes in a statement.
The events so far are as follows, taken from charlottelit.org/carsonmccullers, where more events will be added weekly, so make sure to check it often:
Jan. 25 at 7 p.m., “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” — Book discussion with Kathie Collins. Charlotte Lit Studio, 1817 Central Avenue, Suite 302. Open to public. Free. Registration required.
Feb. 5 at 1:30 p.m., “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” — film, panel discussion and history exhibit (in partnership with Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Charlotte Film Society). ImaginOn’s Wells Fargo Playhouse, 300 East 7th St. Free.
Feb. 15 at 7 p.m., “Shapeshifting: When Novel Becomes Film,” talk by Sam Shapiro. Charlotte Lit Studio. Free. Registration required.
Feb. 19, Carson McCullers/Charlotte Lit Birthday Celebration at Copper Restaurant (Carson McCullers lived in this house, then a boarding residence, in 1936). 311 East Blvd. Details and registration information to follow.
March 18 at 2 p.m., “Reflections in a Golden Eye” — film, panel discussion and history exhibit (in partnership with Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Charlotte Film Society). Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s Main Branch, Francis Auditorium, 310 N. Tryon St. Free.
March 24/25/26, Staged Reading by PaperHouse Theatre: Selected scenes from “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter” stage play written by Rebecca Gilman, based on the McCullers novel. FROCK Shop, 901 Central Ave. Details to follow.
April 1 at 2 p.m., “The Member of the Wedding” — film, panel discussion and history exhibit (in partnership with Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Charlotte Film Society). Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s Main Branch, Francis Auditorium. Free.
April 4 at 10 a.m., “Carson McCullers: The History behind Her Stories,” Sensoria Festival panel discussion. CPCC. Free. Details to follow.
May 7 at 2 p.m., “The Square Root of Wonderful.” Actors from Three Bone Theatre present a staged reading of McCullers’ only original source full-length play. ImaginOn’s Wells Fargo Playhouse. Free.
May 10 at 7 p.m,. “The Member of the Wedding” book discussion with Kathie Collins. Charlotte Lit Studio. Open to public. Free. Registration required.
Oct. 8 at 3 p.m., Carson McCullers & Charlotte’s Literary History. Discussion hosted by Mary Kratt, author of “The Imaginative Spirit: Literary History of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County” (Part of the “Explore History!” series co-sponsored by the Duke Mansion and Levine Museum of the New South) at Duke Mansion, 400 Hermitage Rd. Free.
Note: registration can be handled through the event website: charlottelit.org/carsonmccullers.