My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir by Jenn Shapland:
In the fall of 1951, back in Nyack with Reeves and Bebe, Carson began a piece about a pharmacist called “The Pestle,” the seeds for her final novel, Clock Without Hands, which she would publish ten years later. She and Reeves sailed one last time for Europe, to Naples and then Rome, and finally to a home outside Paris, “a small house, but Reeves and I had separate bedrooms and there was a guest room.” Reeves was drinking constantly in the cellar beneath his “studio,” where he claimed to be writing a book, and he was continuing to threaten Carson. He had his sights set on a double suicide, convinced that they could never be happy, together or apart, and the only solution was to die as a couple. I read this as his acceptance of Carson’s love for women and his own unspeakable love for men, that because they are queer they can never love each other completely, though it’s impossible to know what he was thinking. (He had proposed the same solution, joint suicide, to David Diamond once, going so far as to push him toward the edge of a bridge.) In late summer, 1953, Reeves drove Carson into the woods. At her feet, on the floor of the passenger side, Carson saw the ropes. They stopped at a gas station and while Reeves was inside, Carson fled the car, fled Reeves, fled France. This time, thank god, for good.
I remember feeling horrified when I first read this in one of Carson’s biographies. She doesn’t describe the scene in Illumination, but she refers to Reeves as a potential murderer multiple times. To me it shows how far manipulation and possessiveness can go in a relationship. Silence and secrecy around queer desires—Reeves’s refusal to accept his own sexuality, Carson’s “imaginary friends”—can create a desperation that leads to extreme beliefs about a single relationship’s importance and ability to define a person’s whole identity, whole world. I’m furious that Carson stayed with Reeves this long, but I also think I understand how hard it was to see a way out when so much was governed by Reeves’s increasing delusions and manipulations.