One Writer's Beginnings

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Eudora Welty was born in 1909 in Jackson, Mississippi. In a "continuous thread of revelation" she sketches her autobiography and tells us how her family and her surroundings contributed to the shaping not only of her personality but of her writing. Homely and commonplace sights, sounds, and objects resonate with the emotions of recollection: the striking clocks, the Victrola, her orphaned father's coverless little book saved since boyhood, the tall mountains of the West Virginia back country that become a ...

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Overview

Eudora Welty was born in 1909 in Jackson, Mississippi. In a "continuous thread of revelation" she sketches her autobiography and tells us how her family and her surroundings contributed to the shaping not only of her personality but of her writing. Homely and commonplace sights, sounds, and objects resonate with the emotions of recollection: the striking clocks, the Victrola, her orphaned father's coverless little book saved since boyhood, the tall mountains of the West Virginia back country that become a metaphor for her mother's sturdy independence, Eudora's earliest box camera that suspended a moment forever and taught her that every feeling awaits a gesture. She has recreated this vanished world with the same subtlety and insight that mark her fiction.

Even if Eudora Welty were not a major writer, her description of growing up in the South--of the interplay between black and white, between town and countryside, between dedicated schoolteachers and the public they taught--would he notable. That she is a splendid writer of fiction gives her own experience a family likeness to others in the generation of young Southerners that produced a literary renaissance. Until publication of this book, she had discouraged biographical investigations. It undoubtedly was not easy for this shy and reticent lady to undertake her own literary biography, to relive her own memories (painful as well as pleasant), to go through letters and photographs of her parents and grandparents. But we are in her debt, for the distillation of experience she offers us is a rare pleasure for her admirers, a treat to everyone who loves good writing and anyone who is interested in the seeds of creativity.

Forty-six weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and nominee for the National Book Critics Award, this incomparable work--part memoir, part essay, and part autobiography--offers a revealing look into the life of one of America's most acclaimed writers. 8 pages of photographs.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
**** A reprint of the Harvard University Press edition (1984), a William E. Massey, Sr. lecture in the history of American civilization (1983); and recommended by BCL3. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
New Yorker

In these lectures, thoughtful attention is given to a great many experiences...It is all wonderful...The parts of the book that are about her family...are by turns hilarious and affecting. They are a kind of present...from Miss Welty to her audience.
— William Maxwell

Los Angeles Times Book Review
Beguiling as autobiography and...profound and priceless as guidance for anyone who aspires to write serious fiction...It may, at that, not be possible to convey to someone else that mysterious transfiguring gift by which dream, memory and experience become art. Yet, in these few pages, Eudora Welty seems to have followed the trail...to the richness of her maturity with a gracious and warming clarity.
London Review of Books

[Eudora Welty] is to be looked for, not in blatant self-advertising confidences, hints and nudges, but in the metaphorical clues she drops, which are the exposures of a disciplined sensibility. From them we can deduce a history of a life. One might say her writing, spun out like the web of a 'noiseless patient spider,' is not about but of herself. At bottom, the beauty and astonishment of her fiction, as Emerson might say, is 'all design.' For it is by design, by her calculated disclosures, that this storyteller makes herself and her writing powerful and free.
— Daniel Aaron

New Yorker - William Maxwell
In these lectures, thoughtful attention is given to a great many experiences...It is all wonderful...The parts of the book that are about her family...are by turns hilarious and affecting. They are a kind of present...from Miss Welty to her audience.
London Review of Books - Daniel Aaron
[Eudora Welty] is to be looked for, not in blatant self-advertising confidences, hints and nudges, but in the metaphorical clues she drops, which are the exposures of a disciplined sensibility. From them we can deduce a history of a life. One might say her writing, spun out like the web of a 'noiseless patient spider,' is not about but of herself. At bottom, the beauty and astonishment of her fiction, as Emerson might say, is 'all design.' For it is by design, by her calculated disclosures, that this storyteller makes herself and her writing powerful and free.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446329835
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 7/1/1985
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback

Meet the Author

Eudora Welty
Eudora Welty's many honors include the Pulitzer Prize; the American Book Award for fiction; and the Gold Medal for the Novel, given by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters for her entire work in fiction.

Biography

Although she traveled extensively and lived in various places during her extraordinary literary career, short story writer and novelist Eudora Welty seemed always to return to Jackson, Mississippi, the beloved hometown where she spent most of her adult life and where she undoubtedly drew inspiration for her pitch-perfect regional fiction.

Born into a happy, close-knit family on April 13, 1909, Welty attended Mississippi State College, graduated from the University of Wisconsin, then moved to New York in 1930 to attend Columbia's business school for advertising. A year later, her father's death brought her home. She worked locally in radio, wrote articles for a newspaper, and served as a publicity agent for the WPA throughout rural areas of the state. (A gifted photographer, Welty shot a number of remarkable candids at this time which were later published in the 1978 collection One Time, One Place: Mississippi in the Depression.) A few of her stories appeared in small literary magazines in the late 1930s, but it was not until the following decade that her career took off. Her first short fiction collection, A Curtain of Green, and a debut novella, The Robber Bridegroom, were published respectively in 1941 and 1942.

Although Welty has penned some wonderful full-length novels (The Ponder Heart, Losing Battles, The Optimist's Daughter), it is her short stories -- peopled with peculiar, colorful eccentrics who maintain an undeniable charm in spite of their grotesquerie -- that have cemented her reputation as one of our finest regional writers. During her long literary career she accrued dozens of honors, including multiple O. Henry Awards, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Pulitzer Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, France's Legion of Honor, and dozens of honorary degrees. On July, 23, 2001, she died peacefully in her home in Jackson, Mississippi. She was 92 years old.

Good To Know

  • Welty worked for a year at The New York Times Book Review, where she wrote about war-related topics under the pseudonym "Michael Ravenna."

  • In 1964, Welty published her one and only story for children, The Shoe Bird.

  • Culled from a series of lectures she delivered at Harvard, Welty's memoir, One Writer's Beginnings, was published in 1984.

  • So legendary was Welty's "niceness" that her agent Timothy Seldes told a wonderful, apocryphal story at her funeral. Supposedly, as the author lay on her deathbed, her doctor leaned over and asked "Eudora, is there anything I can do for you?" Her rumored reply? "No, but thank you so much for inviting me to the party."
  • Read More Show Less
      1. Date of Birth:
        April 13, 1909
      2. Place of Birth:
        Jackson, Mississippi
      1. Date of Death:
        July 23, 2001
      2. Place of Death:
        Jackson, Mississippi
      1. Education:
        University of Wisconsin

    Table of Contents

    I. Listening

    II. Learning To See

    III. Finding A Voice

    Read More Show Less

    Customer Reviews

    Average Rating 4
    ( 34 )
    Rating Distribution

    5 Star

    (8)

    4 Star

    (17)

    3 Star

    (5)

    2 Star

    (3)

    1 Star

    (1)

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    See All Sort by: Showing 21 – 34 of 34 Customer Reviews
    • Anonymous

      Posted April 26, 2005

      The Title Explains It All

      The title to this novel, 'One Writer's Beginnings,' perfectly sums up this entire novel because it is just that, the beginnings of a promising writer. Eudora Welty's insightful autobiography is both thought-provoking and interesting. It offers fascinating stories about her childhood and motivating quotes and themes. For example, ''Do what you ought, come what may,' and 'If we would be great, we must first learn to be good,'' is just two of the many up-lifting quotes included in this novel that help to both develop the plot and encourage the reader. The author will also excite all your senses with her very descriptive writing style that seems to rise off the page. In conclusion, while the title may be mundane, the story is far from ordinary.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 26, 2005

      One Writer's Beginnings

      This book follows an author of fiction throughout her childhood and reveals the basis of many of her fictional stories. The essays show how many of her childhood relations manifest themselves or their qualities through characters in her books. She discovers not only different aspects of people in her writing, but she also realizes her ability to adopt different personas to tell a fictional story in first person. Eudora Welty finds herself through her writing and comes to the conclusion that, while past occurrences have some effect on writing, 'all serious daring starts from within.' Imagination is everything.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 26, 2005

      Valiant Effort Leads to Grammatical Chaos

      Though Welty makes a valiant effort to create an exciting account of her beginnings as a writer, her book simply does not deliver. This ¿stream of conscience¿ novel comes across as a mere disjointed mess of clauses, with prepositional phrases strewn about randomly (and awkwardly). On a whole, Welty¿s sentences were wordy and confusing. Many left me thinking, ¿What in the world is she trying to say?¿ The sentence, ¿It seems to me, writing of my parents now in my seventies, that I see continuities in their lives that weren¿t visible to me when they were living¿ (pg 90) was possibly the most awkward one in the book. Is she in her seventies and writing about her parents? Was she writing about the parents in their seventies? Are they in her seventies? Sadly, the grammar only got worse. This attempt at a novel was loaded with disagreeing subjects and verbs, prepositional phrases wandering aimlessly throughout the pages, and general grammatical chaos. One would think that a professional writer could consult a grammar book at least once. However, there are positive aspects to the book. Anecdotes about her childhood and family give the story personality. Her adjective and verb choices are superb and her descriptions of places and characters are like no other. Despite her horrific syntax and diction, Welty does manage to leave readers with useful advice. It is memorable phrases such as ¿to the memory nothing is ever really lost¿ (pg90) and ¿[f]or all serious daring starts from within¿ (pg 104), that make this novel worth reading.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 25, 2005

      Following in Welty's Footsteps

      I was assigned this book through my English class at my school. When I first picked up this book, I did not find it extremely entertaining. Usually, I prefer not to read autobiographies, even if it is only a partial one. However, after completing the book, I found it extremely inspiring. Eudora Welty presents a well organized book which appears to be about her personal life. 'Of course, the greatest confluence of all is that which makes up the human memory'(104) was said by Eudora Welty. The entire book focuses on Welty's ability to relate to the audience in order the allow them understand writing as she does. Eudora uses many of her childhood events to explain the way in which she writes her stories. These experiences include contacts with teachers, parents, as well as other adults in the area. They range from simple talks with her parents to life changing events, such as when a family member died. She gives insight into just a few examples of what makes up her wonderful writing. Welty uses this tactic in order to inspire other writers who want to begin working. She eliminates the need to plainly list steps for writing by clueing in her audience each step of the way. 'Listening', her first chapter reveals the first step of her writing. According to Welty, this step includes viewing other works and understanding the different types. 'Learning to See' and 'Finding a Voice' are her second and third steps. Both of these also relate her childhood life to the steps it takes to become a successful writer. The chapter names allow Eudora to list her steps, but at the same time explain them in depth. Eudora Welty's story would be extremely helpful for anyone looking to begin a career in writing. Rather than plainly listing steps throughout her chapters, she shows examples and subtly informs upcoming authors how to become successful like her. Eudora's book is informative and enlightening. She keeps her audience interested by her extremely descriptive words and lively adjectives throughout the entire book. I would recommend this to any aspiring new writer; however, I would not recommend this book for simple pleasure reading unless you like to read autobiographies.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 27, 2005

      'Listening' and Learning

      Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings is a book for children of all ages. Written entirely from a child's point of view, her language, concepts, and intentions are clear to the reader. Although each chapter may seem to be blatantly named mostly for senses, as in 'Listening' and 'Learning to See', the titles hold deeper, more complex meanings for the reader who looks beyond her reptition of the verbs 'listen' and 'see'. Throughout the first chapter, Welty associates sweet childhood memories with the act of listening. For example, she and her brother listen to the victrola. Through this chapter, she also divulges the secret to being an author--one must be able to listen and learn from his surroundings in order to put his skills to good use. The next chapter, 'Learning to See' persuades Welty's readers that 'seeing is not always believing', and she shows how important her family connections have been in her writing career. In the last chapter, she comments on the novel as a whole, stating that it is a sequence of scenes from her life, a combination of all the events and their effect on her. She 'finding [finds] a [her] voice' through past experiences and learning how to listen and see. 'As we discover, we remember; remembering, we discover; and most intensely do we experience this when our separate journeys convulge.' Welty utilizes what she has already acquired, as well as her family, to uncover her own style and her own stand in modern liturature. Her ultimate 'beginning' stemmed from learning how to listen and see.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 26, 2005

      One Writer's Life

      Eudora Welty¿s One Writer¿s Beginnings is an autobiographical novel about her childhood and how she became a writer. It¿s three main chapters, ¿Listening¿, ¿Learning to See¿, and ¿Finding a Voice¿ basically describe her path to her present occupation. Each chapter describes a different stage in her life. In the first chapter you are introduced to her early childhood and learning from her parents. ¿My parents draped the lampshade¿so that they could sit in their rockers¿they sat talking. What was thus dramatically made a present of to me was the secure sense of the hidden observer.¿ The following chapter, ¿Learning to See,¿ is about how she grows as an individual and the time period in her life where she traces her current writing styles back to. The third and final chapter, ¿Finding a Voice,¿ is about her path in becoming a writer. Through these chapters, you are placed in her shoes and are presented and consumed by her amazing passion for reading.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 26, 2005

      Enter the Mind of a Writer

      Eudora Welty's autobiography, One Writer's Beginnings, offers wonderful insight to the mind and development of a writer. Each of the three chapters focuses on a separate aspect of her life that influenced her style of writing. The 'scenes' that took place around her and advice she received affected her development as a writer. For instance, a schoolteacher whom she feared as a child became an inspiration for similar characters in Welty¿s novels. The entire book is a reflection on that which she states so wonderfully: ¿Learning stamps you with its moments¿ (9). Though this book was an assignment for school, I thoroughly enjoyed Welty's witty portrayal of all the people in her life, right down to the gossipy woman who invited her to catch doodlebugs in her backyard. She is able to reiterate her past while teaching lessons on writing that she obtained through observing her daily life. In truth, this book is neither an autobiography nor a 'how-to' guide. Welty possessed the talent to create a light combination of the two in which neither aspect overpowers the other.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 26, 2005

      A Brief Look into a Writer's Experiences

      I would suggest Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings to anyone, especially someone who likes to write or wishes to pursue a career in writing. The book is a memoir of various stories from Welty's 'sheltered' childhood. These stories show how Welty grew up and the things that influenced her life as a child. The book is filled with imagery and descriptions of things from her childhood and adolescence, which she explained, somehow, affected her style of writing. The book is grouped into three chapters, 'Listening,' 'Learning to See,' and 'Finding a Voice.' In the first chapter, 'Listening,' Welty describes her first recollection of her parents, her childhood, and her experiences with literature. Readers see that Welty takes precocious interest in reading and writing early in her life. In the second chapter, 'Learning to See,' readers find out how her parents met and learn about her family history. Welty describes the trips that she took as a young girl with her parents and how her childhood trips by car and train connect to her writing career. Welty writes, 'The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order, a timetable not necessarily - perhaps not possibly - chronological. The time as we know it subjectively is often the chronology that stories and novels follow: it is the continuous thread of revelation' (68-9). By the third chapter, Welty has grown and is developing herself as a writer, yet she still recalls her childhood stories. She finally ties together that only when a person has listened, learned to see, and found a voice, can he or she begin to develop as a writer. Overall, this short autobiography by Eudora Welty was insightful, enjoyable, and easy to read.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 26, 2005

      A Classic Tale

      One Writer¿s Beginnings by Eudora Welty is a mix of both fiction and truth. The format of three simple chapters is a simple summarization of a complex theme. The reader follows Welty¿s life through minor anecdotes and scenes. These episodes portray her life including: her small childhood days, her school life, riding the train with her father, and her adult years. The title is quite fitting. She is able to portray her background through her family and social life. These two aspects were major impacts on her writing style and choice. The first chapter, titled ¿Listening¿, describes Eudora Welty as a child. It focuses on her first exposure to stories in general. She comments on how she ¿loves her alphabet.¿ This is an early sign of where life will lead her. The title of this chapter is appropriate because Welty discusses the fact that stories must be found by listening to others. She would find a story anywhere; she simply had to listen. In the next chapter, ¿Learning to See¿, Welty begins to focus on her family life. She describes all her family. She includes what her mother and father think. An example of this would be her grandfather, or her ¿Daddy¿s¿ father. To Welty¿s mother, Chessie, her grandfather appeared cold and impersonal. Welty¿s father, on the other hand, admired him as all children admire their father. Seeing her grandfather from different points of view allow Welty to grasp matters from a different angle. In a sense, she is ¿learning to see¿ things in many different ways. Finally, ¿Finding a Voice¿ concludes this compelling novel. The reader sees how Welty develops into a wonderful young adult and writer. She is able to think clearly and seems to achieve the ¿independence¿ she has longed for throughout. She includes a quote from one her books and ends on a positive note. Overall, this somewhat autobiography captures the reader from beginning to end. It is a lovely tale of the growth from child to adult that people from all generations can relate to. If you have not considered reading this book, I highly suggest it.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 26, 2005

      It felt longer than it looked!

      In this book, the self-confident Welty presents her transition from curious child to mature author. She traces her family back to her grandparents, reliving her childhood with vivid anecdotes and in the end, relating them to her writing process. These memories of her childhood span all three lengthy chapters of the book, and even though it is obvious these colorful memories are precious to the author, it leaves the reader sometimes wondering, ¿Why is she telling me this?¿ Her writing and story telling is jumpy, although extremely well written complete with strong imagery, clever metaphors, and emotional appeal to the family unit. In the last chapter, Welty takes the time to examine her own writing and analyzes several characters and situations in her fiction writing. Although this book got boring at times, the language with which it was created is exquisite and a wonderful example of the extent to which the English language can be used.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 29, 2004

      Not Bad for a School Book

      It's a good story, not very specific about teaching other writers, but worth the time to read.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted March 1, 2004

      A Writer's Creation

      Though, this was a school assignment to read this book. It was a highly pleasurable. One Writer¿s Beginnings by Eudora Welty is a splendid masterpiece. This part-autobiography is a master in creating and developing writers. Welty recreates her life in tasteful and harmonic details, at the same time hinting towards successful tips for writing. It is not a guideline, but a lesson which one has to interpret for his or her self. She breaks writing down to three main components: Listening, Learning to See, and Finding a Voice, and tells stories from her past which might have influenced her style. They each individually contribute to the greater whole of a novel. ¿Learning stamps you with its moments. Childhood¿s learning is made up of moments. It isn¿t steady. It¿s a pulse¿ (9). She proves this statement through out the book. She tells stories with great sentimental values, but then interrupts to show what she has learned from the experience. She does a great job at relating her life events to writing lessons. It seems as though she was bound, destined to be a writer, the way she described her life. She can associate many of the events to her writing. She then describes to the audience what value it means to her and how the reader can replace her with them. She is quick to pass the experience over to the reader. The majority of her stories are of her adolescent days. Somehow they have made an impression on her mind, and she turns them into story. Her stories involving listening occurs really early in her life, as though suggesting that one must know how to listen before he or she can create her own story. She learns to differentiate her voice, and voice of others including her mom¿s. Then as if she was reading, she began listening to her own voice when she writes. She had to put complete faith in this voice which she had just discovered. She had very fitting stories for every occasion. For example when it was listening it was stories and her mom¿s reading voice, and for learning to see, she told of her traveled journeys, and for finding a voice she used letters. These stories, which most people can associate with, make it easier for the reader to follow right by her side and understand her discoveries at the same time. Wetly used such simple examples such as asking her mom about where babies come from, to her grandma¿s letters. These associations easily guide new writers in a successful path and help them discover their own spoken voice, and the voice which speaks back at them. She always ends each section with enlightening quotes. Welty writes, ¿I was wholly vaunting the prerogative of the short-story writer. It is always vaunting, of course, to imagine yourself inside another person, but it is what a story writer does in every piece of work. It is his first step and his last too, I suppose¿ (39). This marked the end of the listening section. At the end of the learning to see section, this is what she writes: ¿The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time, but in their significance to ourselves the find their own order, a timetable not necessarily-perhaps-not possible-chronological. The time as we know it subjectively is often the chronology that stories and novels follow; it is the continuous thread of revelation¿ (69). It is these comments which transform a story of a little girl from Jackson, Mississippi into a spectacular piece of writing. She, in very few words, describes what it takes to become a writer and how to write life as story and see everyday events as story. She keeps the three stages of her story telling very closely related to that of her writing methods. She never loses sight of that which she is attempting to get across. From story to story she always has an experience that she has learned from and the audience gains the full benefit of it. Although a famous fiction writer, this process of an autobiography must have been very difficult for her

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    • Anonymous

      Posted April 13, 2001

      Eudora Welty National Treasure

      I would recommend this to anyone that may enjoy either the writings or photography of Eudora Welty. Additionally, anyone looking for insight or inspiration as to their own artistic endeavors wil find it a great source.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 17, 2000

      A book of the good life? Hardly!

      Eudora writes about the good life in Jackson, Mississippi but her account is somewhat troubling. I find it hard to believe that someone who lived in the heart of segregation country and the civil rights movement could fail to mention it in her book. It was an important part of history.

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