Today I walked and thought about a conversation I had with my cousin about how uplifting really good writing can be, even when the subject matter is bleak. We were discussing the book I’ve just finished reading, ‘The Heart is a Lonely Hunter’ by Carson McCullers. It’s amongst the books that have moved me
most, with a set of the strangest characters, almost Grotesques, so vividly created I feel as if I know them – oddly appealing and sympathetic. Essentially the novel is, for me, about loneliness and longing – absence of love or absence of the loved one. It centres around Singer, a deaf mute, and four lonely individuals – a young girl who’s passionate about music, a negro doctor, an itinerant drunk, and the owner of an all- night cafe. All of them are attracted to Singer, visit him separately and tell him things they’ve never shared with
anyone else. In his silence they read the answers they want to hear, and create him into a kind of wise being, a saviour. Meanwhile Singer loves someone else entirely, the oddest choice, who is equally lost to him. There’s that essence of loneliness we see depicted in Edward Hopper’s paintings, and more particularly in Pina Bausch’s dance work, Cafe Muller – choreographed so many years later in 1978.
Cafe Muller is likewise set in a cafe full of bizarre sad characters, all of them lost, lonely, sad – trapped in dreams of their own creation. The work is equally beautiful and strange despite its bleakness.
Is it something about the oblique look at humanity that creates a depth to these works that’s both memorable and uplifting? There is much about movement and gesture in Carson McCullor’s writing that reflects the wonderful observation in Bausch’s choreography - somehow capturing nuance of character and emotion;
gesture that seems true to character and speaks volumes about the darker side of human nature, and the longing for transcendence or redemption.
Tricia Durdey dances, writes, and teaches Pilates.