The late novels of Eudora Welty

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From bookkeeper in an insurance company, he eventually advanced to president. Welty described hers as a happy childhood in a close-knit, bookish family. One of her earliest memories was the sound of her parents' voices reading favorite books to one another in the evenings. Welty's education in the Jackson schools was followed by two years at Mississippi State College for Women between and , and then by two more years at the University of Wisconsin and a bachelor of arts degree in Her father, who believed that she could never earn a living by writing stories, encouraged her to study advertising at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business in New York City during and The years in Wisconsin and New York broadened Welty's horizons, and the time she spent in New York City was especially meaningful for it was during the peak of The Harlem Renaissance, an artistic awakening that produced many African American artists.

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Welty and her friends went to dances in Harlem clubs and to musical and theatrical performances all over the city. Welty returned to Jackson in after her father's death and worked as a part-time journalist, copywriter, and photographer for the Works Progress Administration WPA , which was aimed at providing jobs for writers.

The Late Novels of Eudora Welty

The latter job took her on assignments throughout Mississippi, and she began using these experiences as material for short stories. Critical response to Welty's first collection of stories, A Curtain of Green , was highly favorable, with many commentators predicting that a first performance so impressive would no doubt lead to even greater achievements.

Yet when The Wide Net, and Other Stories was published two years later, critics were split as some praised the work and others slammed it. As Welty continued to develop her vision her fictional techniques gained wider acceptance. Indeed, her most complex and highly symbolic collection of stories, The Golden Apples, won critical acclaim, and she received a number of prizes and awards throughout the following decade, including the William Dean Howells Medal of the Academy of Arts and Letters for her novella The Ponder Heart Occupied primarily with teaching, traveling, and lecturing between and , Welty produced little fiction.

These were years of personal difficulty, as she nursed her mother through a long fatal illness and lost both of her brothers.

She was nevertheless at work on long projects, notably Losing Battles, which she continued to shape for a decade. Then, in the early s, she published two novels, Losing Battles , which received mixed reviews, and the more critically successful The Optimist's Daughter , which won a Pulitzer Prize. Although Welty had published no new volumes of short stories since The Bride of Innisfallen in , the release of her Collected Stories in renewed interest in her short fiction and brought all-around praise.

In addition, the publication of Welty's One Writer's Beginnings, an autobiographical having to do with a book written about oneself work describing her own artistic development, further clarified her work and inspired critics to reinterpret many of her stories. She continued to protect the essential privacy of her daily life, however, by discouraging biographic inquiries, carefully screening interviews, and devoting most of her energies to her work.

During the later s this work consisted largely of collecting her nonfiction writings for publication as The Eye of the Story and of assembling her short stories as The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty.

How a shrewd storyteller became the patron saint of Mississippi.

With these two important collections she rounded out the shape of her life's work in literary commentary and fiction. An invitation to give a series of lectures at Harvard in resulted in the three autobiographical pieces published as One Writer's Beginnings the next year. Perhaps because she wished to forestall keep away potential biographers or because she came to accept public interest in a writer's early experiences in shaping her vision, Welty provided in One Writer's Beginnings a recreation of the world that nourished her own imagination. Characteristically, however, she left out family difficulties and other personal matters, focusing instead on the family love of books and storytelling, the values and examples her parents provided, and the physical sensations of life in Jackson that influenced her literary sensitivities.

Portrait in a Minute: Eudora Welty - National Portrait Gallery

Welty's fictional chronicle of Mississippi life adds a major comic vision to American literature, a vision that supports the power of community and family life and at the same time explores the need for peace. In his essay, Robert Penn Warren — identifies these twin themes in Welty's work as love and separateness.


While much of modern American fiction has focused on isolation and the failure of love, Welty's stories show how tolerance and generosity allow people to adapt to each other's weaknesses and to painful change. Welty's fiction particularly celebrates the love of men and women, the fleeting joys of childhood, and the many dimensions and stages of women's lives.

With the publication of The Eye of the Story and The Collected Stories, Eudora Welty achieved the recognition she has long deserved as an important American fiction writer.

Welty Prize Winners

Her position was confirmed in when her autobiographical One Writer's Beginnings made the best-seller lists with sales over one hundred thousand copies. During the early decades of her career, she was respected by fellow writers but often dismissed by critics as an oversensitive "feminine" writer. The late s and s, however, saw a critical reevaluation the act of examining the same thing over again of her work.

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Such is the plight of the habitual observer. She loved words, loved the way they rolled together and spun off her pen. She has traveled extensively, often using payments from lectures or writing projects to live two months here, three months there, always gathering people and material for her stories. But Welty has been lucky professionally.

Eudora Welty gets first marker on Mississippi writers trail

In her spare time, she set about writing fiction. Entirely ignorant of the publishing process but determined to be published, she sold the first story she submitted. You could look right across the Mississippi River and see forever, nothing but wilderness. The book is a standard in school curricula.

As a testament to its timelessness, on Nov. But her success was not as painless as it may look in the hindsight of history. Friends discouraged her, she realizes now, fretting as she innocently mailed off stories to unknown editors and obscure publications. Writing at home in Mississippi, in the comfortable, two-story house her father built in , even the rejection slips became vital forms of contact with a distant outside world. Or perhaps, the secret is continuity.

Eudora Welty

You know what happens in a family, you can follow something back to what a great-grandfather did. At the Algonquin, strangers recognize her; for example, a splendidly turned-out woman in a hat, dripping in antique jewelry, wants Welty to know how much she admires her. For Welty this is proof less of her own writing talents than of the contagious and essential pleasure of reading. Writing, we search out the word by way of life. Given her choice, Welty would urge a return to the classics.