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Quote of  the day:  “When I did begin to write, the short story was a shape that had already formed intself and stood waiting in the back of my mind.”

This follows a passage in One Writer’s Beginnings about family trips, about how they were stories in themselves.

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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.

In the next scene of  “Moon Lake,” the competition between the town kids and the orphans continues with a little gambling.  Good stuff all the way around, but my favorite line comes with Easter’s reaction to being taunted by Jinny Love:  “Victory with a remark attached did not crush Easter at all.”  I love it.

Swimming lessons are the focal point of the opening scene of “Moon Lake,” the lessons and the cruel tension between town kids and orphans.  Mrs. Gruenwald, the swimming instructor, is every bit as fascinating as the children.  And, as always, Welty has an incredible sense of closure.  The scene ends with this:  “Mrs. Gruenwald, who capered before breakfast, believed in evolution, and put her face in the water, was quarter of a mile out.  If she said anything, they couldn’t hear her for the frogs.”

Beautiful.  The “before breakfast” part makes me think of the line in Through the Looking Glass about believing impossible things before breakfast.  This is wonderful language to depict the child’s view.  And the frogs.  Oh yeah, the frogs.

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.

King MacLain is back in this story and as larger than life in his nefarious ways as ever. Mattie Will, aka Mrs. Junior Holifield, encounters him in the woods in a scene that sounds an awful lot like rape with a halfway willing victim. She at least didn’t fight it, for whatever reason. Juxtaposed against tale is Mattie’s memory of rolling in the grass with King’s twin sons as a girl. Tales of innocence and experience it would seem in a manner that would do William Blake proud.

This story needed more attention than I had to give it.  Nearly 80 pages long, it is told from two different points of view and spans a time period of several years.  If you read a few pages here and there, as I did, it’s easy to lose track of characters and shifts into flashbacks.  But that’s okay.  I’m glad I read every word of it.  I’m just looking forward to a time when I can read it all in a sitting with more time to devote.

 

Parts of the story center around a piano recital in the past, and parts of the story center around a fire, or would be house fire, in the present, the present being the 1920s or so.  We see the events filtered through the eyes of Cassie and her brother Loch.  They mostly have to do with the piano teacher, Miss Eckhart, and the best piano student in town, Virgie Rianey.  Cassie has a long history of following behind Virgie in piano lessons, but by the time they are teenagers, Miss Eckhart has deemed insane, and Virgie is sneaking into abandoned houses with a sailor.

 

In the end, Cassie thinks this:

 

What she was certain of was the distance those two had gone, as if all along they had been making a trip (which the sailor was only starting).  It had changed them.  They were deliberately terrible.  They looked at each other and neither wished to speak.  They did not even horrify each other.  No one could touch them now either.

 

Danke schoen…That much was out in the open.  Gratitude—like rescue—was simply no more.  It was not only past; it was outworn and cast away.  Both Miss Eckhart and Virgie Rainey were human beings terribly at large, roaming on the face of the earth.  And there were others of them—human beings, roaming like lost beasts.

 

Who cares if this makes Cassie judgmental or small minded?  This is powerful writing.  This will make the spine tingle.  The story could be twice this length and contain only this passage worth reading and still be considered great.

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’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.

 

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