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Quote of the day:  “The events in our lives happen in a sequence of time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order, a timetable no necessarily–perhaps not possibly–chronological.  The time as we know it subjectivelly is often the chronology that stories and novels follow:  it is the continuous thread of revelation.”

Classic.

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My Welty quote of the day:  “To me it was a sound of unspeakable loneliness that I did not know how to run away from.  I was there in its company, watching the moonflower open.”

This follows a section in which she describes listening to music but not talking much at her grandfathers house along with her own efforts to imagine what it was like for her father to grow up like that.

I’m going to feed the blog only a tiny morsel today, once more on the grounds of having been incredibly busy.

Here’s a quote from One Writer’s Beginnings:  “The smell of all those rows of bread and the row of pies didn’t easily go away either.  And in the parlor where the blinds were drawn, the smell of being unvisited would pervade, pervade, pervade.”

This is quite possibly the best description of a “company room” I’ve ever read.

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.

 

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.

Regarding long family drives to West Virginia and Ohio, Welty says:

That kind of travel made you conscious of borders; you rode ready for them.  Crossing a river, crossing a county line, crossing a state line—especially crossing a line you couldn’t see but knew was there, between the South and the North—you could draw a breath a feel the difference.

I can relate.  On long drives I always pick points along the way that I’m waiting to reach.  The end of the trip is too far.  I need my milestones along the way.  Usually, state and county lines feature in the markers I seek.  Perhaps in my South and Welty’s, in a land where all borders are about “Us” and “Them” in the very largest sense, those lines are even more significant.  Perhaps.

From One Writer’s Beginnings…

My mother’s hat rode in the back with the children, suspended over our heads in a pillowcase.  It rose and fell with us when we hit the bumps, thumped our heads and batted our ears in an authoritative manner when sometimes we bounced as high as the ceiling.  This was 1917 or 1918; a lady couldn’t expect to travel without a hat.

Classic.  Perhaps Aretha has nothing on Eudora’s mama.

Today I finished the section of One Writer’s Beginnings called “Listening.”  In these last few pages I read about trips to the library, listening to visiting evangelists, and getting along with brothers.  Not a dull sentence to be found.

 

The part that really grabbed me, though, came near the end:  “Of all my strong emotions, anger is one of the least responsible for any of my work.  I don’t write out of anger.  For one thing, simply as a fiction writer, I am minus an adversary—except, of course, time—and for another thing, the act of writing itself brings me happiness.”

 

This particularly caught my attention because I’ve been wondering why Welty avoided writing about racial tensions at a time when there were plenty to be found in Jackson, Mississippi.  I find myself pondering the question even more as the sentence about not writing out of anger is followed by this:  “There was one story that anger certainly lit the fuse of.  In the 1960s, in my home town of Jackson, the civil rights leader Medgar Evers was murdered one night in darkness, and I wrote a story that same night about the murderer (his identity then unknown) called “Where is the Voice Coming From?”

 

She goes on to say that while she was prompted to write the story by her anger over the death of Medgar Evers, the writing itself was not driven by anger.  It was driven by the craft of writing itself.

 

This is such a revealing tidbit.  The lead-in to this in which she muses over how her father was always calm no matter what tells us much.  She did not write out of anger, and she could not recall ever seeing her father act out of anger.  While others of her day felt it their duty to write the anger, perhaps she felt it hers to refrain from doing anything, even writing, as an act of anger.

 

Interesting.

In today’s segment of One Writer’s Beginnings I read an anecdote about a teacher cornering little Eudora and another student in the school restroom for saying “I might could.”  The other child said it, not Welty, and she felt quite put upon to have been taken to task for it.  To which I can only say lucky her.  I grew up in Mississippi too, and I was 24-years-old and a Ph.D. candidate before anyone told me “might could” was not proper English.