I've always had a soft spot for the title of this novella. It's a very evocative title, The Ballad of the Sad Café and makes me receptive to the story that Carson McCullers weaves even before I've started it.
I bought this edition in 1978, when I read it for the first time (along with the half dozen short stories that add a little thickness to what otherwise might be too slim a volume) and recently decided I had to read it again after being blown away by The Member of the Wedding, which I read for the first time a few weeks back and raved on about here. Mind, I also went out and bought The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (another great title, although I believe the credit for this goes to McCuller's editor, who insisted she change it from The Mute to this line from a poem by Fiona McLeod), so I'm having a bit of a McCullers kick at the moment... sandwiched between a few other books.
Of the short stories that accompany Ballad, I particularly liked the last one: A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud - a wonderful streetcar café scene about an itinerant who corners a 12 year-old-boy with the message that he's discovered the science of love. You can only imagine how the boy takes this.
I've also been re-reading some favourite Raymond Carver stories recently and spending some time with a few Charles Bukowski poems - so there's some wonderful flavours of American literature coursing through me at the moment.
Oh, and by the way, just in case you forgot, it would've been Carson McCullers' 94th birthday last Saturday if she was still alive. I think she would have raised a glass to that!
Here's a link to the Carson McCullers Centre in Columbus, Georgia.