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Welty’s Collected Stories is the Mississippi Reads selection for 2009.  The idea is to encourage as many people as possible throughout the state to read the same book at roughly the same time.  This creates opportunities to talk about the book, plan community events around it, and generally enrich our literary conversations and our knowledge of one of our own great homegrown writers.


I don’t know if this is an official NEA Big Read project, but Mississippi Reads is similar to the Big Read program.  Hattiesburg residents should remember the Big Read last fall promoting Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston.  There were book discussions at Main Street Books and the library, visiting speakers at USM, and even a hat parade (Ms. Hurston did love her hats).  Mississippi Reads is like that.  They pick a book by a Mississippi author every year and try to get people to make a to-do over it.  Last year it was Uncle Tom’s Children by Richard Wright.  The year before that I believe it was Light in August by William Faulkner.


This year the book is The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty.  I’m trying to do my part to encourage as many people as possible to read it.


However, I do keep running into those who are intimidated by the length.  It’s something of a hefty book even for a paperback.  So here’s the good news.  It’s a collection of short stories.  You don’t have to read the whole thing at once to get something out of it.  You can read one story at a time like I am doing, or you can even participate by reading one of the shorter collections within the whole.  Read any or all of Welty’s short stories this year, and you can legitimately call yourself a participant. 


The Collected Stories is comprised of four smaller and earlier collections.  Take a month or two for each section, and you’ll still finish the book within the year.  If you absolutely know you are not going to read the entire Collected Stories, though, and you still want to read something, I suggest Thirteen Stories.  You may have guessed already that this book is made up of, well, thirteen stories.  It’s a kind of literary greatest hits.  You’ll find her best known stories there, and it won’t take long at all to read them.  You’ll also learn enough about Welty from those stories to understand why Mississippi, along with the rest of the world, treasures her so.


Regardless of how you go about it, read yourself some Eudora this year.  If you’re a Mississippian, and you aren’t reading Miss Welty in 2009, you ought to be ashamed.