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Complete novels by Eudora Welty

Complete novels (edition 1998)

by Eudora Welty, Richard Ford, Michael Kreyling

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363329,902 (3.84)2
Title:Complete novels
Authors:Eudora Welty
Other authors:Richard Ford, Michael Kreyling
Info:New York : Library of America : Distributed to the trade in the United States by Penguin Putnam, c1998.
Collections:Your library, Favorites

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Eudora Welty : Complete Novels: The Robber Bridegroom, Delta Wedding, The Ponder Heart, Losing Battles, The Optimist's Daughter (Library of America) by Eudora Welty



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"The robber bridegroom", "Delta wedding", "The ponder heart", "Losing battles", "The optimist's daughter"
  IICANA | May 18, 2016 |

In the middle of cotton picking time, 17 year old Dabney Fairchild has announced that she will marry her family's overseer, Troy Flavin, a man decidedly not from the Delta, and at this moment exactly twice Dabney's age. ("...but that was just a funny accident, thirty-four being twice seventeen, it wouldn't be so later on. When she was as much as twenty-five, he wouldn't be fifty!") We learn of the upcoming wedding first from Dabney's 9-year-old cousin, Laura McRaven, who is traveling from Jackson alone on the train to attend. At first we see everything through Laura's eyes, colored slightly by her memory of being among the Fairchilds before, and by the fact that her mother has recently died. There is a large family (8 children, multiple aunts and uncles, and the black servants) spread over a sprawling plantation, the neighboring town, and some as far away as Memphis, all converging on short notice to see Dabney married. Despite the fact that "everyone" said the Fairchilds would die if there were to be a match between Dabney and Troy when they began keeping company, only her father seems to have raised any real protest, and even he ultimately relents to give her "any kind of wedding" she wanted.
This is the 1920's, and while the plantation is almost self-contained, and somewhat outside of time, still hints of the world beyond its fields and cotton houses creep in. Dabney's older sister, Shelley, longs to get her hands on a copy of The Beautiful and Damned, which is going around the Delta, and she is packing for a trip to Europe with her Aunt Tempe. Flowers, dresses, cake and shepherdesses' crooks for the wedding come in from Memphis and are viewed with awe and some skepticism. A cousin, also from Memphis, brings chicken pox with her, and must be quarantined.
The novel is short on plot, long on place and character, brimming with subtext. There are flighty maiden aunts, scatty and somewhat scary old black retainers, drunken uncles, dissatisfied wives, precocious children who pop in and out with observations and pronouncements that often seem out of place. The action sometimes has the feel of a stage play, and in fact treating it that way was helpful to me at times when I couldn't seem to "engage" with what was going on. I just tried to watch it as carefully as possible until the scene changed. There are levels and levels of meaning in the commonplace goings-on, and trying to read this book casually or superficially is likely to leave the reader unimpressed. There just isn't enough pure story to carry you on, unless you plunge into the depths and realize how much exploration of relationships and themes is happening below the surface. Men/women, blacks/whites, youth/age, love and disillusionment, class differences, motherhood, moral ambiguities...so much is going on. Just as one example, the whole subject of pregnancy and childbirth permeates scene after scene. Dabney's mother is pregnant (for the tenth time). Pinchy, one of the servants, is clearly near to giving birth, quite possibly to Troy's child. A cousin couldn't come to the wedding, because she has just recently had a baby. There is even a suggestion that Dabney may be pregnant. (One scene in particular put that idea in my head, and after all, why else would she be getting married in such a hurry at such an inopportune time?)
I'm not much of a close reader, but this novel is beautifully composed in a way that made that process rewarding. And naturally, once will not be enough for me. I think I've only begun to "know" this book.

Review written May 2014
1 vote laytonwoman3rd | Jun 10, 2014 |
Eudora Welty is one of my favorite authors. Reading her short stories has been a great pleasure. Just finished this, preparing to attend the Eudora Welty Writers Symposium at MUW in Columbus, Ms. in Oct. This is not my choice for her best, but it is very good. (The Robber Bridegroom). ( )
  kerrlm | Sep 2, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 188301154X, Hardcover)

This Library of America volume gathers all the long fiction published by the beloved Mississippi writer Eudora Welty. Throughout her long and storied career, Welty has been most famous, perhaps, for her short stories. But it's in her novels that she attempted some of her most ambitious and powerful creations: the idiosyncratic fable that is The Robber Bridegroom, drawing on legends, local history, folktale, and myth; the underrated, wickedly funny short novel The Ponder Heart; and Losing Battles, a familial epic 15 years in the making and begun in bits and pieces while Welty cared for her sick mother. In a strange inversion of the author's usual career trajectory, Welty's only attempt at a roman à clef came late in life, with the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Optimist's Daughter, the quiet, moving, largely autobiographical story of a woman coming to grips with her father's death. The novels alone earn Welty a place as one of the finest writers our century has produced; taken together with the Library of America companion volume, Stories, Essays, & Memoir, it's a body of work that William Maxwell calls "beyond human power of praising." Welty rarely strayed for long from the place of her birth, but her fiction is as capacious as the human heart itself. Like Faulkner, she has taken her own corner of Mississippi and made it encompass the world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:40 -0400)

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