Saturday, March 28, 2009
Clock Without Hands by Carson McCullers
In Clock Without Hands, Carson McCullers portrays what she sees as a typical Southern town in the late 1950's. The book starts with the story of the town pharmacist, J.T. Malone, who has just been diagnosed with leukemia. It goes on to explore the personality and relationships between other town residents. There is Fox Clane, a former Congressman and local judge. He is now elderly and stuck in the past, mourning the death of his son, Johnny years before. He has raised his grandson, Jester, by himself. But as Jester has gotten older, he is interested in new ways of relating and living in the South and he and his grandfather start to clash. Then there is Sherman Pew. Sherman was abandoned as a baby and shows his mixed heritage with his blue eyes in his African-American face. He both craves attention and is filled with hate and disgust for the white race he sees ruling everything around him.
The book seems to meander between plotlines to me. One chapter will follow Malone and his struggle to face his pending death while the next will focus on racial relations. The old segregationist mindset is explored and it's fallacies shown, but much of the point is lost in the vagueness of the book. Living in the South, I've met people like these, older people stuck in their ways and conflicting with younger people who are ready to move on and live a better, different way.
Carson McCullers has several noted books. These include The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter and The Member Of The Wedding. She is considered one of America's best authors. I'm sorry that my introduction to her work was this book, which I was a bit disappointed in.