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One Writer's Beginnings (The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History…

by Eudora Welty

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1,466198,935 (3.94)51
Now available as an audio CD, in Eudora Welty's own voice, or as a book. Eudora Welty was born in 1909 in Jackson, Mississippi. In a "continuous thread of revelation" she sketches her autobiography and tells us how her family and her surroundings contributed to the shaping not only of her personality but of her writing. Homely and commonplace sights, sounds, and objects resonate with the emotions of recollection: the striking clocks, the Victrola, her orphaned father's coverless little book saved since boyhood, the tall mountains of the West Virginia back country that become a metaphor for her mother's sturdy independence, Eudora's earliest box camera that suspended a moment forever and taught her that every feeling awaits a gesture. She has recreated this vanished world with the same subtlety and insight that mark her fiction. Even if Eudora Welty were not a major writer, her description of growing up in the South--of the interplay between black and white, between town and countryside, between dedicated schoolteachers and the public they taught--would he notable. That she is a splendid writer of fiction gives her own experience a family likeness to others in the generation of young Southerners that produced a literary renaissance. Until publication of this book, she had discouraged biographical investigations. It undoubtedly was not easy for this shy and reticent lady to undertake her own literary biography, to relive her own memories (painful as well as pleasant), to go through letters and photographs of her parents and grandparents. But we are in her debt, for the distillation of experience she offers us is a rare pleasure for her admirers, a treat to everyone who loves good writing and anyone who is interested in the seeds of creativity.… (more)
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English (18)  German (1)  All languages (19)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
Eudora Welty, master of the American short story, needs no introduction. Her writing chronicles life in Mississippi before and during the Depression era. This memoir was originally given as three lectures at Harvard University in April, 1983. Together, they constitute a repository of our knowledge of Welty’s upbringing and early adulthood – and importantly, her literary influences.

Welty focuses on her family history and varied inspirations for her characters. Through her family and travels, she saw enough of human life to imagine her distinctive characters. She portrays herself as coming from a “sheltered” background yet clearly imbibed everything from what’s going on around her. She saw Mississippi first-hand by traveling to take pictures of real life in the Depression. She also travelled widely – to New York and to school in Wisconsin – and learned from those environments.

She comes off as an ambitious young lady who makes the most of every opportunity handed to her. She learned about life as it came to her, as it presented itself to her. She did not follow a grand plan to success but started with detail. Indeed, after having benefitted from her father’s pre-Depression success in the life insurance industry in Jackson, Mississippi, she eschewed the field of business generally in favor of a writer’s observationally rich yet financially meager life.

In a new edition out in late 2020, Simon and Schuster repackages this work to seek a wider audience of contemporary readers. Literary researchers will find this book especially interesting. Further, a wider audience of writers and book fanatics, who might have been exposed to Welty’s craftsmanship through her short stories or her photographs, might indulge their curiosity by learning about specific experiences that formed this very American writer. To borrow Welty’s imagery, the words flow smoothly from her experiences to the reader. In this “confluence” of a great writer’s mind with their own minds, readers can extend their understanding of the wide world and of deep humanity. ( )
  scottjpearson | Sep 24, 2020 |
It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass.

This short, gentle memoir hints at how the writer-Welty was formed. Its three sections (“Listening,” “Learning to See,” and “Finding a Voice”) were adapted from three lectures she gave at Harvard University in 1983. They capture her sweet childhood; her extended family and life in the South; and her education, early writing and reflections on writing.

As you have seen, I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within. ( )
  DetailMuse | Jun 7, 2016 |
A brief memoir of Eudora Welty's childhood in Mississippi and the people who influenced the writer she became, it is a pleasant slice of southern life in the early 20th century. Many of the memorable people in her formative years later reappear incognito as characters in her stories. Her family history and accompanying mysteries are contemplated from the aspect of a child trying to figure out the world around her. It doesn't speak of how to right so much as it is about her font of inspiration. ( )
  varielle | May 23, 2016 |
Sweet little gem of a book... ( )
  Gingermama | Jan 24, 2016 |
Starts out wonderfully, but ebbs as she goes—the language becoming more clunky toward the end. One Writer's Beginnings is an autobiographical look at how Welty became the author she is. ( )
  memlhd | Jan 23, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
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To the memory of my parents / Christian Webb Welty / 1879-1931 / Chestina Andrews Welty / 1883-1966
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In our house on North Congress Street in Jackson, Mississippi, where I was born, the oldest of three children, in 1909, we grew up to the striking of clocks.
Quotations
My mother went out to teach in a one-room school, mountain children little and big alike. The first day, some fathers came along to see if she could whip their children, some of whom were older than she. She told the children that she did intend to whip them if they became unruly and refused to learn, and invited the fathers to stay if they liked and she'd be able to whip them too. Having been thus tried out, she was a great success with them after that.
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Now available as an audio CD, in Eudora Welty's own voice, or as a book. Eudora Welty was born in 1909 in Jackson, Mississippi. In a "continuous thread of revelation" she sketches her autobiography and tells us how her family and her surroundings contributed to the shaping not only of her personality but of her writing. Homely and commonplace sights, sounds, and objects resonate with the emotions of recollection: the striking clocks, the Victrola, her orphaned father's coverless little book saved since boyhood, the tall mountains of the West Virginia back country that become a metaphor for her mother's sturdy independence, Eudora's earliest box camera that suspended a moment forever and taught her that every feeling awaits a gesture. She has recreated this vanished world with the same subtlety and insight that mark her fiction. Even if Eudora Welty were not a major writer, her description of growing up in the South--of the interplay between black and white, between town and countryside, between dedicated schoolteachers and the public they taught--would he notable. That she is a splendid writer of fiction gives her own experience a family likeness to others in the generation of young Southerners that produced a literary renaissance. Until publication of this book, she had discouraged biographical investigations. It undoubtedly was not easy for this shy and reticent lady to undertake her own literary biography, to relive her own memories (painful as well as pleasant), to go through letters and photographs of her parents and grandparents. But we are in her debt, for the distillation of experience she offers us is a rare pleasure for her admirers, a treat to everyone who loves good writing and anyone who is interested in the seeds of creativity.

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