Clock Without Hands was published in 1961. Publication came about only as a result of the commitment by Carson McCullers to get her manuscript completed for submission. That commitment was in the form of typing most of the manuscript with just one hand as a result of paralysis inflicted by a series of strokes.
Clock Without Hands would be the final novel McCullers published before her death in 1967. The lack of both critical and commercial success of the novel is generally viewed—along with a premature closing of her play The Square Root of Wonderful a few years earlier for the same lack of interest—as the catalyst behind her continually failing health.
This theory is only reinforced by the knowledge that McCullers had started writing the novel a full decade before publication. During that period she also completed other projects while dealing with personal emotional issues and increasingly difficult physical complications. The mere completion of Clock Without Hands can be viewed on one level as one of the great literary accomplishments of the century. One might also suggest that it would simply have been too much to expect universal acclaim for a novel forcing readers to deal head-on in the early 1960s with issues like institutional segregation, a Southern longing for Confederate traditions and interracial homosexuality.
The true legacy of Clock Without Hands remains to be registered on the historical timeline of American literature. While the text was overlooked and under-analyzed by midcentury critics too eager to judge it only through comparison to her previous works, later generations have been obstructed from rediscovery by virtue of the book being out of print and not easily available.