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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Eudora Welty's story "A Memory" - a metaphor for her whole career

As many writers do in their first collection of stories, Eudora Welty tries a few different styles or modes in her first, A Curtain of Green (picked up in her "Collected Stories") - she brings her sharp observations and her wit to all of them, but some of the stories feel like she's trying on a pair of shes that don't quite fit. A Memory, for example, is a lovely little vignette in which she recalls a day she spent at a lakeshore beach during her high-school years, apparently alone, trying to picture the lake and the white pavilion as something she might paint, and she becomes terribly distracted and disturbed by a rowdy and crude family that settles down near her - the crudity of their behavior, tossing sand at one another, and their rather gross and overweight bodies, disturb her, as she tries to think about the boy whom she has a crush on and is too shy ever to speak to, though their hands brushed once on a stairway - story ends with family leaving, Welty in tears. In a way, it's a metaphor for or precursor of her whole career: while she yearns for some impossible romance that never consummates, her true "material," her work, isn't in the abstract painting but among families just like the one beside her: they're the people who made her a great American writer. Another story, Clytie, is an attempt at Southern Gothic, the ruined, self-destructive family, isolated in the community, tortured by alcoholism and madness, letting nobody into the house except the barber for weekly shaves - it's Faulkner gone nuts, you can see Welty straining for effect, but the story doesn't really fit her and it's a style she will abandon, wisely.

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