The heart is a lonely hunter

Posted: 2017-08-13

Tags: book, love, loss, loneliness, music, work, tiredness

Parent: Books



Summary notes

Why was it that in cases of real love the one who is left does not more often follow the beloved by suicide?… when there is love, the widowed must stay for the resurrection of the beloved - so that the one who has gone is not really dead, but grows and is created for a second time in the soul of the living. (122)

This is a pessimistic book. It posits that people are… lonely inside. That people want things, and do not know what they want, and are always trying to satisfy these things. It posits that we have other people as keepers of our souls - essential to our happiness - and when they die or change, part of us dies as well.

It seems so hopeful in the middle. Mick, with her music dreams. Singer, with his happy thoughts of spending time with Antonapoulos. Copeland and Blount, with their visions of reform.

No one except Singer values Antonapoulos. So Singer never tells them, and no one knows who Singer hangs his heart on. And Antonapoulos means the world to Singer. He commits suicide when Antonapoulos dies. And the four people who hung their hearts on him keep on living, but seem to die a little bit.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A pessimistic book is not a pessimistic outlook on life, a declaration of hopelessness. But it is saying: this is a feeling, a problem that cannot be ignored. This is a quandary that humans face, over and over again. When a loved one dies, how do we keep them alive in our mind? Because how can we persist if we do not?

People have these wondrous, far-reaching dreams, yet they are myopic in a way. The four people hang their hearts on Singer and never ask the question: who does Singer hang his heart on? Put all four of his friends together in a room, and the atmosphere darkens, they are not friends with each other.

People feel ashamed of their desires because they are mysterious, seem wrong—and after a while, it is too late, it has died. Mick and Harry. Biff, who loved Mick in a way but felt it was a wrong kind of feeling, and then Mick was deadened, and Biff lost that love.

(It’s so interesting: Singer is named “Singer” but he is mute. His ability to listen makes him a beautiful person: other person project onto him what they want. He is the most compassionate character in the book, he “sings” the most. And yet, his heart too is a lonely hunter.)


The symphony stayed inside her always and grew little by little. The reason was this: the whole symphony was in her mind. It had to be. She had heard every note, and somewhere in the back of her mind the whole of the music was still there just as it had been played. But she could do nothing to bring it all out again. Except wait and be ready for the times when suddenly a new part came to her. Wait for it to grow like leaves grow slowly on the branches of a spring oak tree. (239)

Next to music beer was best. But now no music was in her mind. That was a funny thing. It was like she was shut out from the inside room… Woolworth’s wasn’t the same as school. When she used to come home from school she felt good and was ready to start working on the music. But now she was always too tired… 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. (350)