Thursday, September 24, 2009

What Would Carson Want?

Of the people who read this blog, I'm pretty sure none of them would care about this nearly as much as I do. But many of you are literature nerds, so I hope you can appreciate my agitation here.

Since high school, I've had a fascination with Carson McCullers. She grew up in Columbus and is, by far, the most notable literary figure to come from that town. One could argue that she's the most notable person, well, ever to come from Columbus. (The guys who invented Coca-Cola and baseball player Frank Thomas could also take the title, I suppose...)

All that to say, Columbus's snooty, old-school Southern elite ignored her and her literary accomplishments for years. No wonder she never came back to live there. (This makes her decidedly different from my most favorite Georgia writer, Flannery O'Connor). Poor Carson, she was outcasted by them while she was growing up, outcasted after she proved herself to them. I've always identified with her (outcasted writer!) and like her, I hope to never live in Columbus again, if I can help it. (Although, being honest with myself, I will never be as successful as she was...)

Ok, so we've established that I love Carson McCullers. Now for the really good stuff. I recently made a discovery while researching for my Intro to Archives class. The Columbus State University archives held a collection of McCullers papers for a while. The collection must have been sold sometime recently because I found this suspicious link, suggesting that CSU had some of McCullers's papers but now no longer do. I have reason to believe those papers were purchased, at some point, by UT's prestigious Harry Ransom Center here in Austin (although they could also be at Duke University or Emory University).

This leaves me rather conflicted. Part of me feels strongly that those papers should stay at CSU, so that the city of Columbus can continue to atone for its neglect of her. However, I'm not sure that's what she'd want. While she was alive, she wanted nothing to do with Columbus (although she mined it -- well, mined her negative experiences there -- for the settings of her novels and stories). And it's great that the Ransom Center, which is practically in my backyard, has this kick-ass collection of her work (albeit an artificial collection, which goes against some archivists' principles).

Still, I wonder if those papers should have stayed in Columbus. A lot of people there have embraced McCullers and the literary tradition she established for the city. She certainly left a mark on my literary development, one that is different from any other writer, simply because we share Columbus as a hometown.

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