Sunday, August 13, 2023

Reading The Member of the Wedding on Wake to Words and Brew Some Coffee (8/13/23)

Yes, You Should Absolutely Read The Member of the Wedding

Unlike all the other Sundays, today I'm reading prose because I find myself away from home and poetry. Please enjoy the beginning of Carson McCullers' novella, The Member of the Wedding. It's an absolutely fantastic book that I began a few weeks ago and quickly devoured. If you haven't read it, I hope that this serves as a gateway into the full book. It is definitely one of the best books I've ever read and one that I'll return to. The writing is thick and smart, wry and hilarious, deeply observant and packed with pitch-perfect sentences. 

The story takes place in the mid-century South and follows Frankie, a twelve-year old girl walking the tightrope into adulthood and the grim reality of such a balancing act. She lives with her widower father and spends her time with her younger cousin John Henry and her nanny/house-help Berenice. Frankie is finding herself less drawn to pastimes that used to take her whole summer, such as digging a swimming hole with neighborhood children or putting on shows in the back yard. 

Like Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, Frankie is more interested in throwing knives than playing dolls, but as an older version of Scout, she's becoming more curious about the larger world, her place in it, and the town she's grown up in. When she learns that her eldest brother is to be married, she starts fantasizing about becoming a family with he and his bride after the wedding--despite receiving no invitation or even a gesture toward it. She decides that this will be her way out of town forever and into the world and goes about dreaming the dream until she has convinced herself of its truth in her attempts to convince others. 

She begins to experience the town and her home as though she will never return, and like the childhood she is leaving behind, she starts to feel both the loss and the excitement of living a different version of her life than she has until now.

Evidently, the novella became a movie only a few years after its 1946 publication (and again 50 years later), and was one of McCullers' best known or most heralded works--aside from The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

I so very much wish that I'd read McCullers before now, but I'm so happy and grateful to read her work now that I've cracked it open. Much like my experience first reading Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, I reveled in the discovery of every sentence and scene. McCullers is amazing. From the way she designs the telling of the story to her observations about the characters to the vivid, perfect details (from John Henry's quiet perfectionism to Berenice's blue glass eye and stories of her deceased husband to Frankie's meticulous pantomime pretending to be a jeweler in her father's store window). 

It's on-point, as the kids say. (Do they still say that?) 

Do yourself or your book-loving friend a favor and find a copy of The Member of the Wedding



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