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Delta Wedding (Virago Modern Classics) by…
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Delta Wedding (Virago Modern Classics) (original 1946; edition 1982)

by Eudora Welty

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6131415,886 (3.55)95
Member:Cariola
Title:Delta Wedding (Virago Modern Classics)
Authors:Eudora Welty
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Collections:Your library, Virago Modern Classics
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Tags:Fiction, 20th Century, American, Virago Modern Classic

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Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty (1946)

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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
A tender look at a young girl thrust among her brood of colorful, yet loving, relations on the eve of a wedding. The relationships between all are explored including that of George who is married both to his family and to Robbie, a young woman who wants George to put her first. This family's love is almost too much, but somehow falls short of becoming a stranglehold -- but just barely. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 15, 2014 |
Rating: 3.75* of five

The Publisher Says: A vivid and charming portrait of a large southern family, the Fairchilds, who live on a plantation in the Mississippi delta. The story, set in 1923, is exquisitely woven from the ordinary events of family life, centered around the visit of a young relative, Laura McRaven, and the family’s preparations for her cousin Dabney’s wedding.

My Review: The Doubleday UK meme, a book a day for July 2014, is the goad I'm using to get through my snit-based unwritten reviews. Today's prompt, the ninth, is to discuss your favorite character in a novel to hate.

Dabney. Hands down, Dabney. What a self-centered nightmare of a spoiled brat! She's marryin' 'neath her, that no-count Troy is just scramblin' for a place in the Fairchilds! But Dabney, she knows:
"I will never give up anything!" Dabney thought, bending forward and laying her head against the soft neck. "Never! Never! For I am happy, and to give up nothing will prove it. I will never give up anything, never give up Troy - or to Troy!" She thought smilingly of Troy, coming slowly, this was the last day, slowly plodding and figuring....
And still, there's something deeply Southern in Dabney's greed, something that life in the lush heat of the land down by the water just puts in you, makes you part of it:
The eagerness with which she was now going to Marmion, entering her real life there with Troy, told her enough - all the cotton in the world was not worth one moment of life! It made her know that nothing could ever defy her enough to make her leave it. How sweet life was, and how well she could hold it, pluck it, eat it, lay her cheek to it - oh, no one else knew. The juice of life and the hot, delighting taste and the fragrance and warmth to the cheek, the mouth....
Dabney's complete inability to see the other person as real makes her a monster, that familiar monster, The Southern Belle. She hasn't got room for anyone but herself in the movie of her life:
Life was not ever inviolate. Dabney, poor sister and bride, shed tears this morning (though belatedly) because she had broken the Fairchild night light the aunts had given her; it seemed so unavoidable to Dabney, that was why she cried, as if she had felt it was part of her being married that this cherished little bit of other peoples' lives should be shattered now.
Things, the stuff that surrounds people like the Fairchilds from cradle to grave (and they'd take it on as grave goods if only people still did that), *those* evoke tears and memories. Not the people, not the little damn-near stranger in the Fairchild midst, little motherless Laura whose presence is unwished for but accepted because she is Family.

And in the end, that's where we end up in this novel, in the Family. Like every family, the Fairchilds have codes and shortcuts in their communication that seem designed to exclude others. That includes the reader of the novel, in fact. But it's not that the Fairchilds don't want you to understand them, or that Miss Eudora failed to give you the keys to a roman à clef. It's this very experience that's the point of the novel. Either you like that experience, or you don't, but this is the point:
Indeed the Fairchilds took you in circles, whirling delightedly about, she thought, stirring up confusions, hopefully working themselves up. But they did not really want anything they got - and nothing, really, nothing really so very much, happened!
Now that said, what makes this book fall short of four stars for me, an ardent Eudoraist? Novels aren't like short stories in that the introduction of a character or inclusion of a detail must be part of the essential nature of the book. There are about a squillion voices in this chorus, and that's just way too many. WAY too many. So there isn't a long-term investment in the current carrying us to...to...wherever it is we're going and we don't quite get to. Miss Eudora could've pruned the voices to Dabney, Uncle George, and Laura, and been able to tell the same big, noisy story. But this is a novel, and writing novels was not Miss Eudora's métier. That was the short story, a form of which she was a mistress.

In the end, as much as I loved to hate Dabney and her cut-rate Scarlett-ness, I was only slightly less appalled by the sheer feckless ridiculousness of George, Dabney's uncle and the Fairchild Golden Boy, and the cult surrounding him. His morganatic marriage to Robbie is summed up by Aunt Ellen, one of his groupies:
t seemed to Ellen at moments that George regarded them, and regarded things - just things, in the outside world - with a passion which held him so still that it resembled indifference. Perhaps it was indifference - as though they, having given him this astonishing feeling, might for a time float away and he not care. It was not love or passion itself that stirred him, necessarily, she felt - for instance, Dabney's marriage seemed not to have affected him greatly, or Robbie's anguish. But little Ranny, a flower, a horse running, a color, a terrible story listened to in the store in Fairchilds, or a common song, and yes, shock, physical danger, as Robbie had discovered, roused something in him that was immense contemplation, motionless pity, indifference...Then, he would come forward all smiles as if in greeting - come out of his intensity and give some child a spank or a present. Ellen had always felt this about George and now there was something of surprising kinship in the feeling.
That gets to the heart of my dislike and discomfort with George. He's so spoiled, so cossetted and babied, that only a severe adrenaline jolt (at someone else's expense) will do to fetch him up among the living.

It's not hard for me to appreciate this novel for what it is, but it's not at all the beau ideal of a novelist's art. I like it, I understand why others don't, but goodness me give me the lush, rich, deeply felt beauty of Welty's prose any old way it comes.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. ( )
3 vote richardderus | Jul 8, 2014 |
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. ( )
1 vote laytonwoman3rd | Jun 10, 2014 |
I found this delightful. I listened to this a few years ago when I worked at a public library. It was my first Welty story...and my last. I have not been able to get into any others since then. I was enchanted with the people on the old homeplace/plantation. Their references to their former lives...The way they came together for holidays and the general decadent, overgrown feeling. I confuse it now with The Christmas Gift by Ferrol Sams. ( )
  AnneSteph | Nov 14, 2013 |
American literature, novels, 20th century, American south, Southern literature
  mgallagher | Oct 16, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eudora Weltyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Binding, PaulIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Darling, SallyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shute, Samuel A.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To JOHN ROBINSON
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The nickname of the train was the Yellow Dog.
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Book description
On the tenth of September 1923 little motherless Laura McRaven travels from Jackson, Mississippi, on a train named the Yellow Dog. She is returning to Shellmound, the family plantation at the heart of the Mississippi delta. There she is swept into the arms of the Fairchilds, her huge collection of entrancing, breathtaking relatives. They have gathered for the marriage of seventeen-year-old Dabney - the prettiest of the Fairchild girls - to a man from the mountains: the overseer Troy Flavin. The ordinary events in the life of this clannish, proud, loving and quarrelling family are wonderfully portrayed as the great day draws nearer and Dabney's perfect moment lights up the lives of cousins and uncles, aunts and great-aunts, young and old.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156252805, Paperback)

A vivid and charming portrait of a large southern family, the Fairchilds, who live on a plantation in the Mississippi delta. The story, set in 1923, is exquisitely woven from the ordinary events of family life, centered around the visit of a young relative, Laura McRaven, and the family’s preparations for her cousin Dabney’s wedding.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:35 -0400)

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Young Laura spends an exciting week with her cousins, the Fairchilds, at their estate on the Mississippi Delta in the early 1920s

(summary from another edition)

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