“There’s nothing that makes you so aware of the improvisation of human existence as a song unfinished. Or an old address book.”
- Carson McCullers
In what spare time as the days allow I’m reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, a novel published in 1940 by the then-23-year-old literary prodigy, Carson McCullers. I’m amazed by the maturity of her insights, and most particularly taken by the way she writes about music:
“For a moment the opening balanced from one side to the other. Like a walk or a march. Like God strutting in the night. The outside of her was suddenly froze and only the first part of the music was hot inside her heart. She could not even hear what sounded after, but she sat there waiting and froze, with her fists tight. After a while the music came again, harder and loud. It didn’t have anything to do with God. This was her, Mick Kelly, walking in the daytime and by herself at night. In the hot sun and in the dark with all the plans and feelings. This music was her – the real plain her.”
For a time, McCullers studied the piano with a mind to becoming a concert pianist. It comes as no surprise that this once-serious music student, now a masterful story-teller, would be able to convey Mick’s experience of hearing Beethoven’s Third Symphony for the first time, both in meaning and with such musical delivery.
But still: twenty-three years old. Phew!