I use this space to highlight various aspects of the issue of the Eudora Welty Review that follows, for few readers have the opportunity to read cover to cover.
In 2012, we lost two of the lions of Welty studies: Noel Polk and Ellen Douglas. Both were wordsmiths par excellence who admired and respected Eudora Welty, the person and the writer. Josephine Ayres Haxton, who published under the pseudonym Ellen Douglas, was born July 12, 1921, in Natchez and died November 7, 2012, in Jackson where she had lived for several decades. Most readers are familiar with Douglas’s postmodern novel Can’t Quit You, Baby (1989, discussed in Mae Miller Claxton’s essay in this issue of EWR), but one should not miss her retelling of classic fairy tales in The Magic Carpet and Other Tales (1987, illustrated with Walter Anderson’s beautiful block prints); the short stories in Truth: Four Stories I Am Finally Old Enough to Tell (1998); or her essays on personal and public histories, Witnessing (2004). Douglas’s long life and rich contributions to literature were publicly recognized on November 13, 2012, in the Ellen Douglas Room at the Eudora Welty Library in Jackson, Mississippi. We will continue to honor Douglas by reading her work and passing it along to future generations.
Noel Polk (February 23, 1943–August 21, 2012), who, like Welty, was underfoot locally, made his vision for Welty studies a reality. His mammoth bibliography of Welty’s work is my bible, for I go to it daily in my research and study of Welty. With W. U. McDonald, Jr., he co-founded the Eudora Welty Newsletter, predecessor of the EWR. He was the keystone in the creation of the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters that granted the inaugural Noel Polk Lifetime Achievement Award to Patti Carr Black, another lion of Welty studies. Nary a Welty conference happened prior to his death at which he was not integral. I cannot overstate how much I and my colleagues in Welty studies miss Noel. In this issue, we include tributes to Noel from four of these friends.
In each EWR, we publish work by Welty that has not been published or is not readily available to readers and scholars. In this issue we print Welty’s 1930s essay “Cindy and the Joyful Noise” that never found publication. Laura Beasley, PhD in poetry candidate, introduces the essay with a bit of [End Page 1] background information. Two interviews not collected in Peggy Prenshaw’s Conversations or More Conversations, one conducted at Bryn Mawr and one at Agnes Scott, offer some insights that we have not previously heard. Responding to my inquiry about the Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin interview, Anne Hobson Freeman wrote,
When I read The Ponder Heart as an assignment for Miss Linn’s fiction writing class, I felt that I was suddenly given permission to have some fun writing about some crazy relatives I had grown up with. The result was a story, “Miss Julia and the Hurricane,” which won the Mademoiselle College Fiction Contest in 1956 and set me on my way as a “published” writer.(“Welty”; see also Style)
Sharing a breakfast table with Welty at the Alumnae House, Hobson noted that because Welty spoke her name so softly, few of the women realized that the tall woman seated with them was Welty. “That, of course,” writes Hobson, “suited her just fine because it meant that her celebrity was not going to inhibit the conversation.”
EWR is pleased once again to partner with the Eudora Welty Society in publishing the Ruth Vande Kieft Prize essay, this year a reading of a “collision of visions” in “June Recital” by Jacob Agner, doctoral student at the University of Mississippi. In addition to taking a fresh look at Welty’s book reviews of horror and ghost fiction by H. F. Heard, Henry S. Whitehead, and August Derleth, Mitch Frye provides a history of the genre and of early- and mid-century reading habits in his essay about Weird Tales. Essays by Alison Graham-Bertolini and Nathan Tipton offer new readings of Delta Wedding focusing...