Eudora Welty

eudora welty

Eudora Welty (April 13, 1909 – July 23, 2001) was an American author whose work spanned several genres — novels, short stories, and nonfiction. Much of her writing focused on realistic human relationships — conflict, community,  interaction, and influence. As a Southern writer, a sense of place was an important theme running though her work, as well.

Eudora grew up in a close-knit, contented family in Jackson, Mississippi. Her parents instilled a love of education, curiosity, and reading to her and to her brothers, with whom she was close. She was always a  star student, from early grades through college. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin. She did her graduate work at Columbia University School of Business, heeding her father’s suggestion to study advertising. But since she finished her degree just as the depression was worsening, she struggled to find work. 


Photography and early writings

The various jobs she took during the 1930s  — for a radio station, as a society columnist, and publicity agent for the Works Progress Administration — helped make ends meet, but what gave her most satisfaction was taking photographs. She received marginal success in exhibiting them, but few were published, as she desired.

She had more success with a short story, “Death of a Traveling Salesman.” It was published in a literary magazine whose editor called it “one of the best stories we have ever read.” After it was published in 1936; after that she found it easier to sell her stories to various publications. The story also caught the attention of Katherine Anne Porter, who became a mentor to Welty. Her first collection of short stories, A Curtain of Green and Other Stories, was published in 1941, and featured elements of the so-called Southern grotesque.

She was a private person, and not much is known about her personal life. Though she traveled widely, she always returned to Jackson, MS, and spent her later years living in the home that had belonged to her family.


Eudora Welty younger

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10 Inspiring Thoughts on Writing by Eudora Welty


A writer in command of her craft

Eudora spent much of her life in the Mississippi Delta and the community out of which her most iconic writings grew. Her early novel, Delta Wedding (1946), looks at the world of adult interactions and love through the eyes of a child.

What stands out in Welty’s novels, stories, and memoirs is her ability to capture the texture of community and, to be a bit trite, a sense of place. Her work explores both separateness of the individual and the healing potential of love.

Eudora Welty’s writing style varied, simply because she was in command of it. Her stories and novels could be seen as quaint and understated or else wonderfully strange and funny. The Robber Bridegroom (1942), set in Mississippi of the late 1700s, made use of legend. As a whole, many of her works cross the boundaries of nostalgia for a culture that has had its day, and an examination of the inner lives of the characters. Other works were daring: After Medgar Evers was murdered in Mississippi, she wrote a short  story in the voice of the assassin,  “Where Is the Voice Coming From?” It was published in The New Yorker.

Other well-know novels included The Ponder Heart (1954), which has comic elements, and Losing Battles (1970), a beautifully drawn portrait of a Southern family.


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An Interview with Eudora Welty


Legacy

Later in her life and career, Eudora’s photographs were published in One Time, One Place (1971) and Photographs (1989).

In addition to writing she had books of her photography published, which highlighted people of different economic and social classes during the Great Depression. Welty won numerous awards for her writing, among them, a Pulitzer Prize (for The Optimist’s Daughter, 1973 — which many critics considered her best novel), an American Book Award, and six-time winner of the O. Henry Award for Short Stories.


The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty

Eudora Welty page on Amazon


More about Eudora Welty on this site

Major works (novels and short story collections; highly selected)

Autobiographies and Biographies about Eudora Welty

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