Clock Without Hands (Houghton Mifflin, $4.00), the masterly new novel by Carson McCullers, is best approached through its four main protagonists, who inhabit a small town in Georgia. J. S. Malone, age forty and owner of a pharmacy, learns that he has leukemia and is given a year to live. He has been a passive man who drifted into a rut, and the imminence of death makes him painfully aware of "the life he had spent unlived." The only man to whom he confides his misfortune is old Judge Clane, the town's leading citizen, a former congressman whose beliefs are fantasticallyindeed, farcically reactionary. Deprived of what he cared for mosthis wife, the son he worshiped (who committed suicide), the satisfaction of his gigantic appetite (the doctors have forced him to diet), and a place in the political arena from which to uphold white supremacythe judge, in spite of the presence of his beloved grandson, Jester, finds his life frighteningly empty. He decides to act on a long-cherished dream which will make him the restorer of the South's glory; it is to induce Congress to redeem the currency of the Confederacy by claiming as the South's due the aid accorded to other vanquished enemies, Germany and Japan.
To help wage this campaign, Judge Clane engages as "amanuensis" a clever blue-eyed young Negro, Sherman Pew, an orphan whose past is a mystery to which the judge alone knows the answer. Sherman becomes the joy of his life; he takes letters, reads aloud "the immortal" Longfellow, makes the judge's toddies, and drinks with him. What the judge does not realize is that he is anathema to Sherman, a proud champion of "the Nigerian race" and wild hater of "Caucasians." Sherman's longing to make a crazy gesture of defiance against segregation precipitates the story's crisis, in which two of the characters find themselves and two are destroyed.