Wasn’t it Arthur Miller who once declared (with suitably “paralyzing pomp”) “We have had more than one extraordinary dramatist who was a cripple as a writer, and this is lamentable but not ruinous.”

Might this have been autobiographical do you suppose?

Ah, perhaps, he’d glimpsed the future, our present – and beyond? We live, after all, in the audio-visual age. The written word has been displaced by the image. The electronic impulse rules. This radical change leaves us unable to respond as the vast temples of literature are gradually abandoned, and we sit listening to the pitter patter of gently falling acid rain on the world around us.

I think of Malcolm Lowery (God alone knows why?) and his rapid descent into alcoholism. He was very young when he embarked on the Pyrrhus to see the world and there swallowed large amounts of gin to wash down his disappointment at what he’d seen. Still he played the ukulele, a much underrated instrument, and played it well, drunk or sober, so they say.

Apart from the continuous drinking, the psychiatric hospitals, the brief spells in prison, and frequent suicide attempts, some perhaps more genuine than others, he still found time to write, rewrite, and write again, “Under the Volcano”, a most impressive achievement for any writer let alone one with Lowery’s phobias and dipsomania.

Interestingly Carson McCullers liked to drink as did her husband Reeves. She tended to populate her fiction with grotesques, cripples, in fact Lowery could well have been a character out of one of her books when you think about it.

In 1941 Carson divorced Reeves after he’d forged her signature on some cheques; they’d both had affairs with same sex partners during the marriage.

Also in 41 she had her first stroke, in the February I believe. During this same period she lived in a menage a tois with Reeves and David Diamond – they all loved each other with a typically southern passion, all very Tennessee Williams. But in 45 she remarried Reeves.

In 47 she had two more strokes and in 1948 attempted suicide. The drinking became heavier, Reeves became abusive, carefully planning their double suicide – ultimately in Paris (in truly gothic southern style). Carson escaped back to the US. Reeves didn’t.

Walter Allen, the writer and critic, had nothing but good things to say about Carson. He called her one of the “most remarkable novelists the south has produced”. V S Pritchett, her British editor, called her “a genius…and the most remarkable novelist to come out of America for a generation.” She certainly won a lot of awards for her writing – not that that means very much in itself.

For my part “Reflection in a Golden Eye” is a fave, as they say: “Within its 183 pages a child is born (some of whose fingers are grown together), an Army captain suffers from bisexual impotence, a half-witted private rides nude in the woods, a stallion is tortured, a murder is done, a heartbroken wife cuts off her nipples with garden shears.” (Time. Feb. 17, 1941)

They don’t write ‘em like that anymore!