Among the people of Jackson are doctors and lawyers, industrialists and baseball players, laborers and craftsmen, millionaires and po’ folk. Among them also is a quiet, friendly young woman who is noted as one of America’s leading writers, Miss Eudora Welty.
Jackson-born and a graduate of Central High School, Miss Welty lives in her family’s home on Pinehurst Street. Here she has written the bulk of her work, of which she has three times received the O. Henry award for the best short story of the year,2 and in 1943, the Guggenheim Fellowship.
This tall, charming woman, who never had a short story writing course in her life, is no publicity-seeker and waves away the idea that she is any authority. In the writing which she has done over 10 years of publication, she has no preference for any particular piece, no this-is-my-best.
“Once a story is done, it’s gone far out of my head and I never think about it. It’s just so much work done. Maybe it’s a good thing. A story could haunt you forever; you could keep thinking how you could have improved it. It’s better to go on to something new. Anyway” she added simply “I’m not a perfectionist.”
Perhaps that’s because she doesn’t need to be. The work of this soft-voiced, blue-eyed woman has been described by various critics as not only “pretty close to perfection,” but also as “the most powerful prose in America today.”
Many of her short stories have been collected into two volumes, “The Wide Net” and “A Curtain of Green.” “The Robber Bridegroom,” a fairy tale which isn’t exactly a fairy tale, was published separately, while her most recent book, “Delta Wedding,” was her first venture into writing novels.
“Particles of Genius”
Of her novel Elizabeth Bowen, an English critic, has this to say in the London Tatler: “In her short stories … have been flying particles of genius,… ‘Delta Wedding’ may, in time, come to be recognized as a classic.” [End Page 3]
Seemingly never as concerned with plot as with the effect of mood in her stories, Miss Welty follows this pattern when writing: “When I’m beginning a story, I work only when the mood hits me. Those ideas I trust. Later, when the story’s in shape, I sit down and work at it like any other job. I know the theme, the idea, when I start. Later I may change the narrative or the action to suit the plot better; but that doesn’t change the main theme.”
Though she spent part of last year in San Francisco writing, most of Miss Welty’s work is done at home on a portable typewriter in her bedroom. Her desk, strewn with books and manuscripts, is a big, sturdy table of antique maple which sits by the double windows in her large bedroom, where occasionally one can hear music coming from across the way in the Belhaven college practice halls.
At present she is “writing,” (working to the layman) but she plans nothing for immediate publication.
An omnivorous reader, she prefers the work of her fellow Mississippian, William Faulkner, above all others; and hesitates to name a second choice. “There are so many good ones.”
“In the last year or so, I’ve read very few of the new books, because I tried to go back over the earlier writers whose works I’ve never read.”
Right now she is concentrating on Euripides and other ancient Greek classics. Accordingly, her tastes have come a long way since her childhood, when her favorite was “Automobile Girls along the Hudson.”3
Her first choice of a career was painting in which she is still interested as an amateur water-color artist. Later, after attending MSCW and the University of Wisconsin, where she was graduated, she did postgraduate work in advertising at Columbia University.
“I considered a career in advertising, but that was during the depression,” she revealed good-humoredly, “and I couldn...