I. Any Room Is A Room To Read In (Eudora Welty: 741 North Congress Street)1
She said any time of day is the right time for reading, mornings when curling up with Mother in a rocking chair that nattered like crickets inserting their voices into the tale,
any time on a winter afternoon beside the coal fire’s blush of secrets in the dining room, the clock calling: “cuckoo cuckoo,”
any time in the kitchen as mother churns and the story sobs and throbs: Come, butter, come. Come, butter, come. Harriet’s at the garden gate Waiting for her butter cake. Come, butter, come,
and any evening when the sky turns russetcarminecarnationcrimsonred, and the sun slides down a soulful-Jackson hillock and listens in, and then, when it is bedtime, storytime, anytime [End Page 129]
before the next morning when it is time to read “Puss in Boots” again.
II. Eudora Welty: Listening Toward the Hall
Listening through memory’s ear, she said she heard her father whistling, lips, tongue, teeth, breath, bringing joy, bringing him close, as Mother, hums back, as she fries bacon, and dances to “The Merry Widow,” and says she hears the crystal notes childhood playing, and pursing her lips into a perfect O, finds in familiar sounds, the harmony of art’s recalling.
III. The Sharpest Recognition Comes From Within (After Eudora Welty)
She said the eye is indigo, is olive and ash, is a pupil at the crossroads of circumstance. She said the eye darts from one place to another even if it is lazy sometimes, and cannot see past the horizon, and the mote within it burns and stings, doubtful of hindsight, fearful of foresight: “I” “eye” “aye.” [End Page 130]
IV. Truth She Said
The moon never tells what it sees, never reveals the robber’s face. Willows whisper and do not lie as wishes do; their business is never truth. It is said that if a coin is face up when thrown, it will land face up on the ground, and a man seeking his fortune might wager on the woman of his dreams. When the sun goes down, she scrubs red stains from his face as her mouth chokes on questions she dares to ask, and she laughs then, crows at the audacity of it, but lies down at the foot of a money tree in a forest that is not a forest but a glade, and cocks her ear to hear the river’s fog-throttled throat: Guilt is a burdensome thingto carry about in the heart.2
V. Eudora Welty On Religion
She said Presbyterians were not allowed to eat hot food like Vindaloo or Tom Yum Soup from Thailand or read “Little Orphan Annie” in the funny paper on Sunday. Baptists were not supposed to play poker or do the Black Bottom dance, and when she recited Bible verses in history class in high school by way of answering the roll, [End Page 131] it was not acceptable to say: Jesus wept.
Eudora said she sang: “Bring them in! Bring them in! Bring them in from the fields of sin! Bring the little ones to Jesus!” while Miss Hattie, holding up the chair leg broken off a Sunday school seat, stood next to the upright piano, while its wild unnatural notes, black like sin, tried to drown out the pure-white natural ones, and she waved her arms in the air, the very wonder of animation. “Throw out the lifeline! Throw out the lifeline! Someone is sinking today!”
And though the tune was rollicking enough to make little girls in taffeta dresses and white gloves feel the forbidden desire in the very soles of their feet and start dancing, there was much to be learned, and Eudora remembered Gypsy Smith, who stirred the businessmen on Jackson’s Capitol Street to come and be saved as the church choir sang “Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling,” and it was just like an epidemic, the way those men hastened to receive the Lord.
She said the firebrand editor of the evening paper rose up one night, proclaiming his righteousness...