I have been told, both in approval
and in accusation, that I seem to love all my characters.
Eudora Welty loved the characters in her fiction
because she knew them. She especially knew Southerners with all
their complexities, both good and bad. She wrote in her May 1980
preface to The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty: That
hot August night when Medgar Evers, the local civil rights leader,
was shot down from behind in Jackson, I thought, with overwhelming
directness: Whoever the murderer is, I know him: not his identity,
but his coming about, in this time and place. The shock and revolt
of the killing pushed its way up through a long novel I was in
the middle of writing, and was finished on the same night the
shooting had taken place.
Eudora was born in 1909 in Jackson and
spent her childhood on North Congress Street where she grew
up to the striking of clocks. The oldest of three
children, Eudora responded to a family environment that
encouraged reading and knowledge. The local librarian, Mrs.
Calloway, was instructed by Eudora's
mother to lend any book - excepting Elsie Dinsmore
- to her daughter.
Music was a frequent
visitor to North Congress: Our Victrola stood in the diningroom.
In One Writer's Beginnings, Eudora remembers, I was
allowed to climb onto the seat of a diningroom chair to wind it,
start the record turning, and set the needle playing it.
reminders are needed that Eudora became one of the South's most
celebrated and beloved writers, both within the region and outside
of it. From her home at 1119 Pinehurst Street in Jackson, she wrote
almost all of her fiction and essays that earned her the Pulitzer
Prize, the American Book Award, the Gold Medal for the Novel, the
French Legion of Honor, and the
Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Welty House and Gardens on
Pinehurst are now opened to the public and preserve the things that
Eudora loved: photos, cookbooks, books by other writers, records,
art given to her by friends. Her collection of souvenirs from global
travels defy any notion that Eudora was a stay-at-home great aunt.
In fact, Eudora's importance as a chronicler of
her times - beyond her writing - continues to emerge. She was a
prolific photographer and the Museum of the City of New York is
hosting an exhibition of 50 black-and-white photographs she took in
Mississippi during the Great Depression. As stated by the Museum
about Eudora and her pictures, these photographs capture America
in the depths of the Great Depression revealing a compassion and
sensitivity towards her subject that also became a hallmark of her
the Introduction to her superb book, Eudora Welty, A Biography,
Suzanne Marrs writes of her friend: Over the course of her
ninety-two years, Eudora engaged the world with all her powers and
never retreated into a single, narrowly defined role. Openness to
experience complemented her creative genius and helped her to
produce some of the most memorable fiction of the twentieth century.
The Southern Literary Trail is honored to be part of the Eudora
Welty Centennial Celebration.
Click here for a
complete schedule of events for the Welty Centennial in 2009.
Click here for
Welty Centennial Travel Packages.
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