Wednesday, April 21, 2021

the last book I ever read (My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir by Jenn Shapland, excerpt ten)

from My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir by Jenn Shapland:

Reeves went to war in November 1943 and was wounded at Normandy the following year, while Carson was at Yaddo. That same summer, she received news that her father had died. She returned to Columbus for the funeral in August. Her mother refused to go inside the house on Stark Avenue after he died. Carson, Bebe, and Rita all moved together to an apartment in Nyack, New York, a town on the Hudson River where Carson would spend most of her remaining years.

Bebe’s unwillingness to return to their Georgia home makes more sense in light of a 2003 revelation in Virginia Carr’s introduction to the reissue of her 1975 biography. In Illumination, Carson had written, “in the middle of these years of fury and disaster my father suddenly died of a Coronary Thrombosis. He died in 1944 at his jewelry store.” According to Carr, this is not at all the truth. She writes, “both the coroner and the obituary in the local newspaper reported that Mr. Smith had died in his jewelry shop of a heart attack. But I learned later than he had died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head—Bebe, his wife, ‘insisted that we tell no one.’” It is another rewrite, one that makes it into Carson’s own retelling of her life. She does not speak of her father’s death to Mary in the therapy transcripts.

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