Two experiences today made me think about the thing then 23 year-old Carson McCullers deemed the 'inside room.' In The Heart is a Lonely Hunter one of the characters, Mick, struggles to keep her fantasies, her visions, her vivid inner life going as she gets older. At 14 she takes a job at the Woolworth and the music she used to hear is replaced by this incessant "Miss" "Miss"- hissing. The novel is beautiful and tragic, the deaf and mute man, Mr. Singer, is a great friend to her-- but his separation of his true love eventually kills him. In all of his silence he is a keen observer and doesn't understand how these humans can possibly open and close their mouths so much. Or how they can be 'so busy.'
"School and the family and things that happened every day were in the outside room. Foreign countries and plans and music were in the inside room."
"But now no music was in her mind. That was a funny thing. It was like she was shut out from the inside room. Sometimes a quick little tune would come and go-- but she never went into the inside room like she used to. It was like she was too tense. Or maybe the store took too much of her energy and time. Woolworth's wasn't the same as school. When she used to come home from school she felt good and ready to start working on the music. But now she was always tired. At home she just ate supper and slept and then ate breakfast and went off to the store again. A song she had started in her private notebook two months before was still not finished. And she wanted to stay in the inside room but she didn't know how. It was like the inside room was locked somewhere away from her. A very hard thing to understand."
I went to see the adaptation of McCullers' novel at New York Theater Workshop tonight, the text was adapted by Rebecca Gilman, it was directed by Doug Hughes, and the cast and creative team can be found here. I didn't love the production, although moments were sumptuous, but some of the ideas obviously resonated.
The other piece that had me thinking about these ideas this morning was Judith Warner's final Opinionator column for the Times. It is accessible here, and here's a bit I particularly liked.
“’How can I know what I think until I read what I write?” the former Times columnist James Reston — quoted by Quindlen in her final “Life in the 30s” column, in December 1988 — once wrote.
Often, writing here, I didn’t know fully what I felt — about things going on in my own life — until I read what I’d written. And very often I didn’t understand what I’d written until I heard it coming back at me.
The back-and-forth of our conversations changed me."