The last story in Welty’s The Golden Apples might just be my favorite, but I think it can only be a favorite if you’ve already read everything leading up to it.  It’s like a TV finale in which the whole cast of the show is brought back to reminisce over its life.  In this story, the whole cast of the book is brought back to reminisce over the town for the occasion of Katie Rainey’s funeral.  It ties things up, answers questions about what happened later as a result of incidents in earlier stories.  Yet it is also fully its own story with its own impact.  It’s a story about a woman who has lost her mother and lost her way.  It’s about her memories and her grief.  It’s beautifully lyrical while packing a real emotional punch. 

 

I wish I had time to say more.  I’m working on my presentation for our Welty day at JCJC, though, and I have to put my thoughts about this into another format.

 

I don’t think I’ve accomplished what I set out to do with this blog, mainly because I’m so busy that I haven’t been able to devote the kind of attention to it I wanted.  I’ve decided that means it’s just going to take longer to do what I wanted. 

 

I said I would blog at least until Welty’s birthday on April 13.  I’m going to keep going after that.  I may not blog daily, but I’ll keep blogging some for the next few months.  I want to blog through all of Welty’s work, and I’m not nearly there yet.  I also want to blog through her short stories a second time.  That should keep me busy for the rest of the year.

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I love this weird story.  I love it all the more because I’ve followed the cycle of stories to this point so that I have a whole Mississippi town in my head as background to Eugene MacLain in San Francisco.

 

Eugene hits his wife.  That part I don’t love.  I’m not a fan of violence.  Yet this is the kind of violence that makes you stop and stare.  It seems at first to have happened for no reason at all.  She does something perfectly innocent and unobtrusive, and he hits her.  Then he just gets up and leaves.

 

The rest of the day is spent in a dream-like fog as he follows a Spanish musician around San Francisco.  There’s no conversation between the two men, as presumably they don’t speak the same language, but they do hang out together all day. 

 

Meanwhile the real story unfolds in the thought processes of Eugene as he dwells on this fact that he has hit his wife.  He doesn’t know why he’s done it, but somehow it is easier to feel sympathy for him than for his twin brother because he is aware that he’s done wrong.  He doesn’t exactly express remorse, but he does express surprise and awareness at what he’s done.

 

He also has issues.  Not that issues excuse him, but he and his wife have lost a child.  He has clearly not dealt with this loss.  He does not know why he hits his wife, and at the same time he does not know why his child has died.  Both questions repeatedly run through his mind.  These are mysteries to him, both intertwined with the mystery of the music and musician. 

 

Somehow that all adds up to an emotionally intense story despite the fact that it is about a man who has no real clue what he’s feeling or why.

 

The musical version of Eudora Welty’s Shoe Bird is fantastic.  Buy it now!  My mother and I listened to it over the weekend.  We intended to just sample and come back later, but like a good box of chocolates, we soon realized we’d consumed the whole thing.   You should also buy the book, of course, but the musical is just delightful. 

You would especially enjoy sharing it with children.  This is Welty’s only children’s book.  But you don’t have to be a child to love it.  My mother and I had a fine time with it.

If there isn’t an animated film made from this, I’ll be highly disappointed.

This is a disturbing story about a very unhappy man.  Ran MacLain, one of the twin sons of King MacLain has left his wife Jinny Love Stark because of her unfaithfulness.  The whole town knows.  He leaves, yet he doesn’t.  He still sees his wife and her family and the man everyone speculates that she has chosen over him.  He sees her and spends a great deal of time reflecting on his feelings about her and about what everyone in the town has to say about the two of them.  All the while he has a young woman named Maideen (ironic little play on maiden) tagging along with him.  He says he’s never kissed her, but what he does do does not turn out well at all.  At best, he seriously and wrongfully takes advantage of her.  This might be more aptly called rape.  And he shows no remorse on her behalf.  He even seems to blame her.  She is a victim of his depression.  He feels sorry for himself.  I have a much harder time.   Still, this is really quite emotionally powerful as a story.

I feel bad for “Moon Lake,’ the story, because I did not give it the attention it deserve. I read it in fragments, spread out over too much time. It’s not the story. It’s me. I’m fragmented.

So…in my fragmented state, I’ll just say this. There is a child who calls herself Easter in this story. There is a death and resurrection. Think baptism. Think Easter. Think about the fact that the story isn’t about the girl who drowns and is revived. It’s about those who observed the event.

There’s a wonderful scene in “Moon Lake” in which the children are arguing over Easter’s name.  She spells it out, and it is spelled “Esther,” but she insists that she is called “Easter.”  Jinny Love and Nina try to tell her she can’t do that.  Her name can only be hers as it is spelled.  Jinny Love says, “Spell it right, and it’s real.”  Like nothing can be real if it isn’t spelled write.  It’s a brilliant commentary on the relationship between text and reality, between perception and text…all told through the mouths of babes.

Here’s a wonderful video on Welty’s photography and its relation to her writing.

Here’s a gem of an observation from Welty’s On Writing:

The plot is the Why.  Why? is asked and replied to at various depths; the fishes in the sea are bigger the deeper we go.  To learn that character is a more awe-inspiring fish and (in a short story, though not, I think in a novel) one some degrees deeper down than situation, we have only to read Chekhov.

That character is a bigger fish in the sea of writing than plot, many writers have said, but few have said it as eloquently.  I have to admit as well that I’m curious about her distinction of the novel and the short story.  I’d say character is just as important to the novel as the short story, but I can see her point that plot matter more in the novel.  Otherwise, you’d end up with a sequence of chapter episodes rather than a novel as a whole.

You have my deepest apologies for my two week absence.  Busy would be a mild word.  I do regret the break because I needed to be closer to finishing the Collected Stories by now.   But, breaks happen to the best of blog intentions.   I do plan to be up and going again now.  We have a lot planned at JCJC for April 13, Welty’s birthday.  I’m excited about it and excited about spending more time with her work between now and then.