My Autobiography of Carson McCullers (Hardcover)
Tin House Books, 9781947793286
Publication Date: February 4, 2020
February 2020 Indie Next List
— Pepper Parker, Vintage Books, Vancouver, WA
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“Gorgeous, symphonic, tender, and brilliant, My Autobiography of Carson McCullers is a monumental achievement." -Carmen Maria Machado
While working as an intern in the archives at the Harry Ransom Center, Jenn Shapland encounters the love letters of Carson and a woman named Annemarie—letters are that are tender, intimate, and unabashed in their feelings. Shapland recognizes herself in the letters’ language—but does not see Carson as history has portrayed her.
And so, Shapland is compelled to undertake a recovery of the full narrative and language of Carson's life: She wades through the therapy transcripts; she stays at Carson’s childhood home, where she lounges in her bathtub and eats delivery pizza; she relives Carson’s days at her beloved Yaddo. As Shapland reckons with the expanding and collapsing distance between her and Carson, she sees the way Carson’s story has become a way to articulate something about herself. The results articulate something entirely new not only about this one remarkable, walleyed life, but about the way we tell queer love stories.
In genre-defying vignettes, Jenn Shapland interweaves her own story with Carson McCullers’s to create a vital new portrait of one of America’s most beloved writers, and shows us how the writers we love and the stories we tell about ourselves make us who we are.
About the Author
Praise For My Autobiography of Carson McCullers: A Memoir…
— The New York Times Book Review
Following along with Shapland-as-detective is a delight, and the mystery she sets out to solve is one of those wicked unsolvables: how do we account for the apertures in language, history, and identity?
This book will change the way you think about the truth. … Shapland possesses the perfect storm of talents to push McCullers’s love life, and beautiful writing, into the light of this century during a moment when we need all the queer heroes we can get.
— Kate Gorton
This is a gorgeous, brilliant book that is all but guaranteed to resonate with queer folks, word nerds, and readers everywhere.
Shapland interweaves candid self-questioning and revealing personal stories with a nuanced portrait of a writer who confessed her loves were 'untouchable' and her feelings 'inarticulable.' A sensitive chronicle of a biographer's search for truth.
A fine narrative of how the best writers express the deepest secrets of the heart.
You do not need to be a queer woman, a lover of Carson McCuller's fiction, or interested in the mysterious junctures between our own lives and those of our favorite artists to love this book, but for those of us who are those things, Jenn Shapland's memoir is a particular trove of delights. My favorite biographies are full of historical literary gossip and interested in the shadow selves of public persons. My favorite memoirs are those that scrutinize the self as an unreliable source of narrative truth and the one we must nonetheless rely upon. The Autobiographies of Carson McCullers manages to do all of this in earnest and honest and riveting vignettes. It is a detective story and a dissection of selfhood, a puzzle every piece of which pleased me as it clicked into place.
— Melissa Febos, author of Abandon Me and Whip Smart
In lucid, distilled, honest prose, Jenn Shapland teaches us about McCullers, the desire for recognition, loneliness, the complexities of queer history, the seductions and resistances of the archive, and, all throughout, love.
— Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
Gorgeous, symphonic, tender, and brilliant, My Autobiography of Carson McCullers is a monumental achievement. In this genre-bending work of nonfiction, Shapland brings the full weight of her intellect to bear on one of literature’s most important questions: How do queer readers find the truth—and themselves—between the lines?
— Carmen Maria Machado, author of In The Dream House
You don’t have to be a Carson McCullers fan to admire this remarkable book. It’s a biography that’s also a memoir, a story of obsession and longing. Captivating and trenchant and moving, Shapland’s genre-mixing debut will stay with me a long time.
— R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries
Jenn Shapland’s My Autobiography of Carson McCullers is indeed part autobiography, part criticism, part memoir, and 100% human, reminding us of how books and writers can take our hands and lead us to uncover the mystery of our hearts. I’ve never read a book quite like it.
— Ann Hood, author of The Knitting Circle