- Users' Guide:A Word from the Editor
Tom Nolan may be familiar to readers of the Eudora Welty Review, for he is the biographer of Ross Macdonald/Kenneth Millar, and co-editor with Suzanne Marrs of Meanwhile There Are Letters: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald (Arcade 2015). Beginning in 1990, in preparation for Ross Macdonald: A Biography (Scribner 1999), Nolan visited Jackson, Mississippi, to meet and interview Eudora Welty. From their conversations, Nolan published two pieces in Oxford American: A Magazine of the South illustrating that Welty was charming and witty, as was especially true when she spoke of someone other than herself. I am pleased that EWR can publish the interviews, pinned together as Welty might have done herself, providing our readers with fresh and unmodulated perspectives of Welty, as well as extending our appreciation of Nolan and his talents as journalist, essayist, and editor. I know that readers will enjoy and learn from "1990: I Call on Miss Welty" by Nolan.
A second special feature is Emmeline Gros's translation of Jacques Cabau's Preface to The Optimist's Daughter, published in French in 1977 by Editions Rombaldi. Cabau, author of the Larousse Encyclopedia of American Writers and of a study of Edgar Allan Poe, offers surprising new perspectives on Welty's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and an alternate view of its plot, characters, and the South. He draws multiple comparisons to William Faulkner (who was better known than Welty to French readers) and to the myths of Clytemnestra and Electra. We learn also how a French man of letters perceives Laurel McKelva Hand and the South of the Lost Cause. Cabau writes, "The optimist's daughter is both a fallen aristocrat who keeps bringing up the past and a satirist who denounces without illusion the end of a century. The South is no longer . . . a reliquary of the good old days." "By getting rid of social and political contingencies, she gives up history and chooses the myth instead, and this choice gives a permanent and metaphysical dimension to the psychological conflict" (24, 26). Cabau refers to the South as the mezzogiorno of the United States, literally meaning "midday," but referring to southern Italy, its rich culture and history, rather than referencing le Midi, southern France!
Interestingly, Cabau's Preface includes eleven black and white photographs to illustrate the contemporary scenes of the novel: a judge seated [End Page ix] before an American flag, an old man and a younger woman in a living room setting to represent Laurel and her father, the "McKelva" house with a front yard filled with daylilies, a traffic jam in New Orleans as Fay and Laurel leave the hospital, French Quarter buildings with wrought iron balconies, Mardi Gras celebrants, a passenger train compartment, a hospital operating room, trees with Spanish moss, the Presbyterian church of Mt. Salus, and flying pigeons. Each image has a brief caption excerpted from The Optimist's Daughter.
This issue of EWR includes essays by Carolyn J. Brown and Annette Trefzer that compare Welty's life and work with that of two other Jackson, Mississippi, writers: Margaret Walker and Hubert Creekmore. Walker was an acquaintance of Welty, the two being duly celebrated in Jackson, and Creekmore was Welty's close friend and then a "relative" when her brother Walter married Mittie Creekmore, Hubert's sister. Trefzer's essay considers Creekmore's short story "The Night You Were Out" and novel The Welcome in company with Welty's early story "Retreat" and Delta Wedding. Trefzer gives us much to consider and charts some paths of inquiry that may offer new readings of other texts as well.
Daniel Spoth, in his essay "Welty on the Interstate: Mobility and Mass Culture on I-55 and the Natchez Trace," examines "how the coexisting ideals of mobility and stasis . . . animate Welty's work" even as it is "shaped" by the two roads (56). The Robber Bridegroom, The Optimist's Daughter, One Writer's Beginnings, "No Place for You, My Love," and the 2011 film General Orders No. 9, directed by Robert Persons, are the texts most at play to illustrate Spoth's thesis.
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