Review

Carson Mccullers: A Life

by Josyane Savigneau

Carson McCullers is one of the greatest American writers who
ever lived. Several other biographies have been written about the
complicated details of her life --- her marriage and remarriage to
an alcoholic writer, Reeves McCullers, her own battles with
addiction, severe illness, her manipulative attitude with friends
and family, her difficult relationship with her mother, her massive
international success, her early death. Josyane Savigneau, a French
journalist, has written a strange biography of this artist,
entitled simply, Josyane Savigneau.
Savigneau's style is very conversational, which catches you
off-guard when you are in the midst of reading the personal letters
and writings of the writer about whom the book is intended.
Savigneau often refers to biographer Virginia Spencer Carr's book
about McCullers, alerting the audience to what she considers to be
the prejudices of the other biographer. It is a strange way to
allay the details of a life about one person to an audience by
making constant references to another book about the same person. I
don't know if part of the problem is the fact that Josyane
Savigneau has been translated from the French and, perhaps, in the
translation, something literally has been lost. But, ultimately, I
think it is the fault of Savigneau that the span of McCullers's
life is continually interrupted by the biographer's strange asides
and questions, as if this book were written for a study group of
children or something. It is off-putting and takes away from the
fascinating intricacies of McCullers's work and life
experiences.
I
would not recommend Josyane Savigneau to anyone who already has a
respect for and knowledge of her work or life. As a lifelong fan of
the woman who brought us THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER and A MEMBER
OF THE WEDDING, I found Savigneau's take on McCullers's life
irritating. If it is the first time you have ever heard of Carson
McCullers, perhaps it won't be quite as disturbing to you. I would
more highly recommend the book Savigneau constantly attempts to
undermine, Virginia Spencer Carr's biography of McCullers. It is
far easier to follow the path of this interesting life in that
CARSON McCULLERS: A Life than it is in this one.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 21, 2011

Carson Mccullers: A Life
by Josyane Savigneau

  • Publication Date: February 19, 2001
  • Genres: Biography, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN-10: 0395878209
  • ISBN-13: 9780395878200