Here is a good article about Welty’s photography.  I hope I haven’t posted it before.  Now that the blog is in month 3, I’m seriously having trouble remembering.  It’s a good thing that I decided to simply go in order with the short stories.

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I’m reading the second story in The Golden Apples now.  I thought I would wait until I finished it before I blogged it, but I’m only about thirty pages in now, and it is much longer than that.  It’s a novella, almost even a novel inserted into this short story cycle. 

 

Anyway, I’m not waiting for the end because I have something to say now.  There’s a scene with a flasher.  A man who boards in the same house where Miss Eckhart gives piano lessons continually opens his robe to the children.  He does it, they think, because he does not like the noise of the lessons, and he is trying to scare them off. 

 

The children are threatened against telling their parents, but they tell anyway, and no one takes them seriously.  Because of this, the girl Cassie thinks, “Some performances of people stayed partly untold for lack of name…as well as for lack of believers.”

 

Good point.  If I weren’t so tired and overwhelmed with work, I’d talk about Melville’s “Benito Cereno” and the idea that people only see and believe what they are capable of seeing based on prior experience and cultural conditioning.

I didn’t accomplish much in the way of reading today, but I did make progress on the plans for the Welty Birthday celebration at JCJC on April 13.  We’ll have programs starting at 9:30 and going to 12:20 in the Home Health Auditorium.

Right now, the program looks like this:

9:30      Conversations About Eudora Welty  (Beverly Fatherree and Sharon Gerald)

10:30    Mississippi Photographers and Welty with the WPA  (Mark Brown)

11:30    Southern Humor and Welty’s Fiction  (Tammy Townsend and Marcia Adkins)

Everyone is welcome to treat themselves to lunch afterward in the school cafeteria.  We’ll have coffee, cake, and a book discussion on Welty’s Collected Stories at 1:30 in the faculty dining hall.

Bring yourself.  Bring your students.  Enjoy!

I’ve now made it to the first story of the third collection, The Golden Apples.  It’s told in another one of those voices of pure Southern charm, full of energy and wit.  Welty really nailed the female character of the South.  Maybe even particularly of Mississippi.  Maybe that’s why I love her writing so much.  I know these women.  I was raised by them.

 

In “Shower of Gold,” we meet Snowdie MacLain, an albino who is abandoned by her husband.  Twice.  He comes back but runs off again without even speaking to her for fear of his own children.

 

Snowdie’s story is interesting, but Mrs. Rainey’s voice in telling it is more so. 

 

The Golden Apples is a short story cycle with every story related to the overall tale of the town.  I’m really looking forward to spending some time with the MacLains and Raineys and everyone else.

The quote of the day from One Writer’s Beginnings is this:  “Then she looked from me to my mother and back.  I learned on our trip what that look meant:  it was matching family faces.”

 

The she is Welty’s grandmother, also named Eudora.  The observation follows an anecdote about falling down a log chute as a child when she was feeling particularly confident and independent.  Her uncles teased her.  Her grandmother just offered to stitch up the hole in her dress and gave her that look, the one she felt her own faced matched up with her mother’s.  Lovely.

 

In this story, we meet Jenny, who is violated, ruined, etc, etc, by a young man named Billy Floyd who is only passing through and for whom she feels a great and mysterious love.  Everything happens around the time of her grandfather’s death, which serves to heighten the poignancy of the story.  Like all else Welty, however, the real draw is in the language—the absolute lyricism, the pure, sharp insight into the human spirit.

 

Consider this passage:

 

She walked in the woods and around the graves in it, and knew about love, how it would have a different story in the world if it could lose the moral knowledge of a mystery that is in the other heart.  Nothing in Floyd frightened her that drew her near, but at once she had the knowledge come to her that a fragile mystery was in everyone and in herself, since there it was in Floyd, and that whatever she did, she would be bound to ride over and hurt, and the secrecy of life was the terror of it.

 

Jenny hangs on to this deep thoughtfulness about her love despite Billy Floyd never showing much in the way of consideration for her.  When he moves on, she follows him after a time.  The story ends with her waiting for him, a smile on her face the likes of which make children ask if she is dead.  No doubt nothing good can came from that.  I’m not sure Jenny will be deterred either way.  She seems willing enough to love with no encouragement or assurance.  She seems pulled that strongly toward the mystery of it all.

 

Marshall Ramsey, cartoonist for Jackson’s Clarion Ledger, spoke at the Creating Futures Through Technology Conference.  Most of the cartoons he showed had political themes, as might be expected.  He had one about the passing of Eudora Welty, though, and I wish I could post a copy here.  It showed her atop the clouds with William Faulkner, Margaret Walker Alexander, and Willie Morris, all great authors from Mississippi.  The caption showed Willie Morris saying, “It’s not Mississippi, but it’s still Heaven.”  Great stuff.  I did appreciate that he took time out from political mockeries to pay homage to Welty.  I also appreciated that he picked that cartoon to show us at the technology conference.

Contributed by Carole Ezell.

About twelve years ago (urp), I wrote my master’s thesis on Welty’s short story cycle, The Golden Apples.  It has now been about that long since I read it, but I still think of the process of reading and re-reading it as something like driving through fog.  On my first reading, things were fuzzy around the edges, characters and events a little obscured by Welty’s language.   I remember Noel Polk calling on me in his Southern Lit class in grad school the day we discussed The Golden Apples.  I smiled, what must have looked like a knowing smile, at something he’d mentioned, so he called on me to explain what had happened at the lake.  As I stumbled along, I hoped very hard that I had actually understood and wasn’t making a fool of myself.  As I read it over and over, things began to emerge from the fog, events I had read over, past, around, until they seemed so glaringly obvious I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen them there all along.  I wrote my thesis about these hidden moments of sexual violence.  I love the way that Welty uses words to cloak her character’s lives, and writing this has me curious to pick The Golden Apples up again, to see if the fog might have settled around her words again.

On a totally random note (not really part of the blog entry), every time I buy a new pair of shoes I think of Welty writing in One Writer’s Beginnings about how her father always scored the soles of slippery new shoes with his pocket knife in a diamond pattern so that she wouldn’t fall down.

Welty tells an anecdote about her mother who, while traveling back and forth to her teaching job as a young woman, would recite poems from the McDuffie Reader to herself “to pass the time.” And:

She could still recite them in full when she was lying helpless and nearly blind, in her bed, an old lady. Reciting, her voice took on resonance and firmness, it rang with the old fervor, with ferocity even. She was teaching me one more, almost her last, lesson: emotions do not grow old. I knew that I would feel as she did, and I do.

What a profound lesson to learn, what a turning point it is in young lives, and how aptly expressed it is here. Precisely. Emotions do not grow old.

These are random lines from the short story “Livvie.”

This was the way he looked in his clothes,
a different and smaller man, holding
his Bible. Like somebody kin to himself.

He was the same to her as if he was dead,
far away in his sleep—small, relentless,
and devout. Outside, the ground
scarred in deep whorls, every vestige
of grass patiently uprooted.

Even old men dreamed
about something pretty.

Like a commotion in the room,
the frogs sung out. In Solomon’s face,
came an animation that could
play hide and seek, that would dart
and escape, had always escaped.

The mystery flickered in him,
invited from his eyes, frightened her
a little, as if he might carry her
with him that way,
when he might be going to die.

She could be so still she could not
hear herself breathe. She did not think
of that, tasting the chicken broth
on the stove, gently as if not to disturb
some whole thing he held round
in his mind, like a fresh egg.

Now I lay eyes on a young man,
Old Solomon far away in his sleep,
walking somewhere where she could
imagine the snow falling.

May 2019
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